DMA Calls for Data Collection Disclosure

The Direct Marketing Association is recommending that online companies notify visitors to their Web sites of third-party ad servers that collect information as a result of visitor interaction with the site.

The DMA, pitching its recommendations Monday at a public workshop about online profiling, said Web sites should identify their ad servers and provide a means for the individual to contact the ad server. The workshop is being co-hosted by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce.

“Individuals using the Internet need to be notified when data about them is being collected, whether it is personally identifiable or more generic navigational data,” said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president, government affairs for the DMA.

“All parties involved, the Web site, the advertisers and the ad server, need to provide effective privacy notices that will give individuals a clear understanding of what type of information is being collected and what it is being used for. They should also gives them the option to opt out of personally identifiable information exchanges,” Cerasale said.

“The use of third-party ad servers and navigational data is beneficial to the individual’s Internet experience, by enabling customization and personalization of the Internet experience,” Cerasale said. “Nevertheless, it is important that such data be collected with the individual’s knowledge and choice.”

The DMA is a trade association for businesses interested in interactive and database marketing, with nearly 4,600 member companies.

On another front related to the hearing, results from the latest @plan Internet Poll show strong evidence that the majority of online users believe the Internet should be self-policed as a safeguard to privacy.

According to the poll, 64 percent of online users say that the Internet industry, not the federal government, can better protect consumer privacy online. In addition, most online users consider controlling how the information that Web sites collect about them a top priority.

“While privacy appears to be a major concern online, it does not translate into a big demand for government regulation,” said Mark K. Wright, chairman and CEO of @plan. “Online users feel that privacy safeguards will be best met through self-regulation.”

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