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Ad Industry Trade Groups Unite in New Privacy-Focused Lobbying Effort

Privacy for America set to meet with lawmakers, regulators and the White House

IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 on May 9, 2016 in New York City. Rothenberg said during a press call regarding the Privacy for America coalition that it is "imperative" for the advertising industry to get data privacy legislation "right." (Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

In the next few weeks, members of a nascent advertising industry-backed coalition are set to visit Washington to meet with stakeholders in Congress, the White House and a handful of agencies to make their case for a federal privacy bill that includes a stronger Federal Trade Commission enforcement arm and restrictions on which data is collected from consumers.

Privacy for America, which launched Monday, includes leaders of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (or 4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the nonprofit Network Advertising Initiative. Its framework for a national privacy measure calls for limits on how data collected for advertising is used, including prohibiting discriminatory targeted advertising and restricting the collection and sharing of sensitive data without permission, as well as the creation of a Data Protection Bureau within the FTC and enhanced rulemaking authority and enforcement measures over companies in data breach cases.

A spokesperson for the group told Morning Consult that leaders are planning new aspects to the advocacy campaign in addition to the scheduled meetings and that funding will be dedicated to the effort; however, a set amount and range has not been established yet.

The framework, which also calls for pre-emption of similar state laws, comes from some industry groups who count tech giants such as Google and Facebook Inc., as well as a mix of brands and advertising agencies, as members — signaling a readiness to increase lobbying efforts on data privacy as more states and countries pass strict rules of their own.

To draft the framework, Privacy for America conducted its own poll research on consumer interest in such a law and enlisted the help of the FTC’s former Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich and Stuart Ingis, co-chair of Venable LLC’s e-commerce, privacy and cybersecurity group, as advisers.

“It’s imperative for our entire industry to get this right,” IAB Chief Executive Randall Rothenberg said in a call with reporters. “We have to move forward. We have reached a point where there have been a number of faux pas in the industry that it’s time to rectify and get this done right.”

While the group did not disclose which lawmakers it plans to meet with, Rothenberg said members of Congress have viewed the framework “favorably” in IAB’s meetings. Aides to the House Energy & Commerce and Senate Commerce committees did not respond to requests for comment ahead of publication.

Dave Grimaldi, executive vice president for public policy at IAB, said in an interview following a call with reporters that the goal is to target not just the two committees that have jurisdiction over drafting a national bill, but also to reach groups that might have more niche interests in the issue.

“There are members we need to talk to in every corner of Congress,” he said, noting that House Democrats have raised issues about discrimination enabled by broad data collection practices.

Facebook and Google are both members of the IAB, but Rothenberg said he has not heard back from the two companies regarding the framework, which could change how the tech giants operate their advertising-fueled businesses.

ANA Chief Executive Bob Liodice said the framework is meant to impact the industry equally, rather than focus on a specific sector.

“We recognize that this is not going to be evenly done across the board, but I think that everybody is ready to sign on to this new paradigm because it’s fair and balanced for consumers and across different industries,” Liodice said during the call.

The Privacy for America spokesperson noted that the ad industry groups have worked together in a coordinated effort before, with recent work focusing on issues surrounding advertising taxes and rulemaking for a children’s online bill. Grimaldi pointed to the creation of the nonprofit Digital Advertising Alliance, a group that involves the same cast of industry associations, as an effort that focuses on self-regulation of privacy practices.

Grimaldi also said Privacy for America wanted to create a privacy framework that didn’t just focus on the advertising and tech industries, but rather on as many consumer-facing industries as possible, which is why they decided to launch the coalition now.

“We’ve reached a critical mass where it was time to announce that we were going to march forward together,” he said.

Calls for federal data privacy legislation and tougher enforcement regulations aren’t new among company executives: In January, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook laid out his principles for federal privacy legislation in a Time magazine op-ed, including the creation of a “data-broker clearinghouse” within the FTC. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg also said the United States needs tougher laws on internet content moderation, election integrity, privacy and data portability in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month. Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey also joined the call for regulation following Zuckerberg’s piece last week.

Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Network Advertising Initiative.