CDD and Advocates Call on the FTC to Begin Rulemaking to Prohibit Surveillance Advertising
January 26, 2022
Federal Trade Commission
Office of the Secretary
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Re: Comment on Petition for Rulemaking by Accountable Tech, FTC-2021-0070
Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense, Fairplay, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and ParentsTogether strongly support the Petition for Rulemaking to Prohibit Surveillance Advertising filed by Accountable Tech1. We agree that this action is necessary to stop the exploitation of children and teens2.
Surveillance advertising, also known as behavioral or targeted advertising, has become the standard business model for a wide array of online platforms with companies utilizing this practice to micro-target all consumers, including children and teens. Surveillance advertising involves the collection of vast amounts of personal data of online users, their demographics, behaviors, preferences, characteristics, and the production of inferences. To create detailed advertising profiles from this data, users are tracked across websites and devices; they are classified, sorted, and even discriminated against via targeting and exclusion; and ultimately are left vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation.
Young people are especially susceptible to the risks posed by surveillance advertising, which is why leading public health advocates like the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for a ban on surveillance advertising to children under 18 years old3. Children’s and teens’ online experiences are shaped by the affordances of surveillance marketing, which entrap them in a complex system purposefully designed to manipulate their behaviors and emotions, while leveraging their data in the process. Young people are a significant audience for the real-time ad profiling and targeting apparatus operated through programmatic platforms and technologies, which poses fundamental risks to their privacy, safety and well-being.
Surveillance advertising is harmful to young people in several ways. First, young people are already more susceptible to advertising’s negative effects and surveillance advertising allows marketers to manipulate children and teens even more effectively. Second, surveillance advertising allows advertisers to target children’s individual vulnerabilities. Third, surveillance advertising can exacerbate inequities by allowing advertisers to target (or abstain from targeting) marginalized communities. Fourth, behavioral advertising is the driving force behind a complex system of data collection and surveillance that tracks all of children’s online activity, undermining young people’s privacy and wellbeing. Finally, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has failed to effectively protect children under thirteen from surveillance advertising and a more expansive prohibition is needed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable users online.
For these reasons, we urge the Commission to protect children and teens by prohibiting surveillance advertising.
……Please read the full petition, see PDF below……
186 Fed. Reg. 73206 (Dec. 27, 2021).
2Pet’n for Rulemaking at 32-33.
3Jenny Radesky, Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos, Nusheen Ameenuddin, Dipesh Navsaria, Council on Communications and Media; Digital Advertising to Children. Pediatrics July 2020; 146 (1): e20201681. 10.1542/peds.2020-1681.