The Path to Transparency

Today, two House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees are holding a joint hearing to discuss behavioral advertising. Clearly, Congressional leaders continue to have concerns about the technologies used to track users Web activity and are dissatisfied with current practices. The FTC has repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction with the status quo. And significant numbers of consumers themselves make their discomfort clear by deleting cookies. In response, privacy legislation could be on the way.

How are companies responding? Some argue that stricter standards will disrupt the economic model of internet advertising supporting free content. Some claim that self-regulation is working. Some support national privacy legislation. And others are beginning to explore opportunities to improve current practices. We think that regardless of whether legislation or better self-regulation is the right answer, companies need to be focused on maintaining the trust and confidence of their users if they hope to be able to succeed in the long run.

In order to encourage companies advance trust by finding innovative ways to engage and communicate with users about data use, FPF has decided to create a "Leading Practices Gallery". Our goal is to highlight the companies that are going a bit farther to provide transparency and control to their customers with the hope that other industry players will follow in their footsteps. We recognize that not all the practices highlighted will be the best solution for every business. We appreciate that some of these examples are only baby steps in the right direction. But, all too often, privacy progress by businesses is stalled by critics who deride any minor progress because it isn't the perfect solution or because the advances are perceived to be an ingenuous attempt to deter the holy grail of legislation. We take a different view. We think that by recognizing some of the positive methods that some businesses are taking, we can inspire other companies looking to increase transparency and control and support those who are trying to get it right. Soon, we will be consumer testing some of these efforts and will be trying to design some of our own.

So take a look at the Leading Practices Gallery to see which companies and practices are working to improve consumer trust.

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