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ANA to Advertisers: Regulate Before Gov't Does It for You

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The Association of National Advertisers delivered a wake-up call to its members Tuesday, urging them to get on board with the online privacy self-regulation efforts before the feds could beat the industry to the punch.

"Time is of the essence," wrote Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA, referring to a Federal Trade Commission report that recommended Congress consider a "Do Not Track" regime. Such a regime could have serious repercussions for the $25 billion online advertising industry, which is increasingly reliant on online behavioral tracking to place more efficient and relevant advertising on the Internet.

"Without broad industry support, our self-regulatory efforts are likely to be supplemented by new restrictions imposed by the government that the advertising community will in all probability not favor," Liodice said.

The ANA, one of seven organizations with a strong stake in the online advertising industry, took a big step towards developing a self-regulation scheme last year, when it formed the Digital Advertising Alliance.

So far, two major advertising firms, VivaKi and GroupM, representing some of the nation's largest advertisers such as AT&T, Verizon, Procter & Gamble and Chrysler, have committed to bring their clients into compliance with the DAA's program.

Other members of the DAA, such as the Direct Marketing Association, set a Jan. 1 deadline.
Evidon, the major provider of compliance services approved by the DAA, announced this week that it had signed a deal to bring Collective's 28 premium publishers and ad networks into compliance, including Internet Broadcaster (a provider of Web services to broadcasters and publishers), AARP and Batanga (a major Hispanic Internet music site).

The DAA has encouraged all seven of its member organizations to be compliant by the end of the first quarter.

Comments on the FTC's December report are due by the end of the month.

Despite the online ad industry's push to self-regulate, congressional leaders are still mulling introducing an online privacy bill some time this year. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who collaborated with former Rep. Rick Boucher on privacy legislation in the last Congress, is working on drafting a new bill. The proposal introduced last year, which died on the proverbial vine, was mostly aimed at transparency issues, making sure Internet companies are upfront about how they collect and use personal data and that they give users the option to opt-out.