As government increases pressure on the online ad industry, self-regulatory trade group the Network Advertising Initiative has appointed a new head. AOL privacy vet Charles Curran has started work as executive director and general counsel of the NAI, replacing the organization’s longtime leader Trevor Hughes.
Curran, who spent the past 12 years as AOL’s chief counsel for policy and regulatory matters, has yet to determine how or if he might change the trade association’s existing approach to self-regulation, he told ClickZ News. However, he recognizes the regulatory heat is on when it comes to online data privacy and security in relation to behavioral targeting and other online ad methods.
“We’re hearing for some pretty clear calls for effective self-regulation and I look forward to working with our member companies to address the issues about transparency and choice that the consumers and regulators are focused on right now,” said Curran.
He added that before making any decisions about new directions for the group, he plans to speak with NAI members, which include Google, Yahoo, Microsoft-owned Atlas, as well as AOL-owned Advertising.com and Tacoda.
In his role at AOL, Curran led the company’s federal and state legislative agenda and consumer regulatory team, working on issues such as spam and privacy. Based in Dulles, VA, and New York while with AOL, Curran is now working from Washington, DC, in his new NAI position.
Curran replaces Hughes, who served as the group’s executive director since 2001. Hughes left the NAI in February, choosing to devote his time exclusively to the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a group he led along with the NAI.
Government entities like the Federal Trade Commission have expressed increasing interest in how the online advertising industry self-regulates, particularly when it comes to behavioral targeting. In February, the FTC announced revised behavioral ad principles, at which time two commissioners suggested they favored regulation and legislation.
“A day of reckoning may be fast approaching,” wrote Commissioner Jon Leibowitz at the time in conjunction with the principles. “The jury is still out about whether [self-regulation] alone will effectively balance companies’ marketing and data collection practices with consumers’ privacy interests.” Since then, Leibowitz has been named chairman of the agency.
The NAI introduced a code of conduct for behavioral ads in December, essentially updating its policies and restricting the kind of data that can be collected for ad targeting without user permission.
Curran is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School. Before joining AOL, he served as worked at a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.
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