#6. Behavioral Advertising Restrictions

 

What’s so iAWFUL? Severe restrictions on websites’ ability to collect user information that enables websites to provide free services and content.

 

New York’s An Amendment to the Online Consumer Protection Act – AB 4809

 

 

New York seeks to make consumers’ use of the Internet a more frustrating and less tailored experience.  A new bill (AB 4809) will require consumers to opt-in to the collection of any identifiable information on any websites they visit.

 

So what is so iAWFUL?

 

When you visit a NY media site like the NYTimes.com, the home page looks at your IP address to automatically show you the weather forecast for your location.  But this bill makes this a violation of consumer protection law – unless you’ve given explicit consent to the NYTimes website beforehand.

 

New York’s AB 4809 requires website users to authorize any collection of “personal information” including your IP address.  But how can your IP address be personal information when it changes depending on whether you logon from your home, your office, or a coffee shop.  Are your time-zone and zip code personal information, too?

 

AB 4809 would require websites to inundate users with pop-up boxes asking for consent.  Users would likely either blindly accept or deny, neither of which helps websites or users.

 

We rarely complain about fines that governments can levy for violations, since legitimate business rarely violates these laws.  But the $250 fine in AB 4809 is one of the reasons it’s so iAWFUL.  If a website like NYTimes.com makes one small error in collecting data and displaying ads for a million viewers, they could face a $250 million penalty – even where users suffered no damages whatsoever. The threat of big fines will have a chilling effect on website innovation and customization.

 

Rather than adding this additional burden on users and websites, state governments should educate consumers about Internet data collection while ensuring that companies comply with their privacy policies.

 

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