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Online Ad Industry’s Privacy-Protection Effort Fails, Consumer Group Says

BLOOMBERG NEWS

A privacy-protection program sponsored by the online advertising industry fails to protect consumers, highlighting the need for U.S. lawmakers to pass do-not-track legislation, according to Consumer Watchdog.

The voluntary program, created by a coalition of online advertising and marketing groups, is designed to let consumers avoid being targeted by online ads based on the websites they visit. By clicking on icons provided by participating websites and advertisers, consumers can opt out of receiving such online advertisements.

Consumer Watchdog, a consumer-rights organization founded in 1985, said that companies participating in the industry program can still track people and use the personal information collected for other purposes.

The program “is another example of the failure of self- regulation to protect consumers from unwanted monitoring of every move they make on the Internet and their mobile devices,” Carmen Balber, Washington director of the Santa Monica, California-based group, said in an e-mail today.

In December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission called for a do-not-track option for Web browsing and pressed advertisers to better explain their data-collection practices to consumers. Lawmakers including Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who leads the Senate Commerce Committee, have introduced do-not-track and consumer-privacy bills this year.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, a New York-based group representing more than 500 media and technology companies, had set today as a deadline for its members to comply with the industry program. Bloomberg LP is a member of the IAB.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net