Home AdExchanger Talks Regulatory Scrutiny And The Intricacies Of Ad Law With A 30-Year FTC Veteran

Regulatory Scrutiny And The Intricacies Of Ad Law With A 30-Year FTC Veteran

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Mary Engle, EVP of policy, BBB National Programs

The word “surveillance” doesn’t really have any positive connotations. You don’t surveil someone unless you’re being sneaky.

“The term sounds pejorative,” says Mary Engle, EVP of policy at BBB National Programs, on this week’s episode of AdExchanger Talks.

Engle joined BBB National Programs, a nonprofit umbrella organization for ad industry self-regulatory groups, in early 2020 after 30 years at the FTC, including more than two decades as associate director for advertising practices.

Earlier this year, the FTC announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to discuss the potential need for new rules governing what the commission refers to as “commercial surveillance” and lax data security practices.

The period for public feedback on the ANPR closed in late November. The FTC’s staff is now presumably up to its eyeballs sifting through the comments.

Although the online ad industry laments the term “commercial surveillance,” it’s already worked its way into the lexicon and the public consciousness.

The FTC’s word choice in naming its ANPR is telling. In this context, use of the word surveillance implies an element of consumer harm, which is under the FTC’s purview.

“I don’t think that you would use that term if you thought the practice was beneficial,” Engle says.

In the past, although the FTC had concerns about tracking and interest-based advertising, it also recognized the need to weigh the harms and the benefits of data-driven advertising.

“It kind of sounds like [the FTC] prejudged the issue,” Engle says, “and I guess I’d be a little concerned about that.”

Also in this episode: Ad disclosures in the metaverse, Megan Thee Stallion’s brush with advertising law, Engle’s take on the FTC’s case against Kochava, avoiding greenwashing, defining “puffery” and a very cute Pomeranian named Coco who happens to have his very own Instagram account.

For more articles featuring Mary Engle, click here.

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