New York Times’ Zimbalist Says Privacy Legislation Means The Industry Is Maturing

At yesterday’s Yieldex Executive Summit, The New York Times vp for research and development operations, Michael Zimbalist, took to the stage to provide attendees with an overview of the state of online ad industry regulation momentum as it relates to consumer privacy.

Zimbalist appears to be at or near the tip of the spear in terms of digesting the D.C. regulation data and then creating and disseminating a media industry point-of-view for the increasingly digital New York Times.

Given the brand behind him combined with his own thoughtful consideration and expertise, Zimbalist is an important, if not key, digital voice in Washington for the digital ad industry as a whole. (“Tag, you’re it, Michael!”)

As he began, Zimbalist noted, “I think the industry has been unique in its lack of regulation in comparison to other industries” and identified other industries such as food, etal., which are thick with legal requirements. Exceptions to the regulation rule in the relatively short life of the Internet includes the Telecommunications Act, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and several other legislative efforts -still, relatively few laws according to Zimbalist.

But, he urged that the coming regulation we’ve all heard about is not the end of the world and added, “Let’s do a level set. It’s not about the industry ‘blowing up,’ it’s about an industry becoming mature.”

The interesting challenge for lawmakers will continue to be the navigation of the world of big data which is inherent with the Internet. Can big data be regulated? Is this really like other industries? And, the Internet is borderless. Regardless, for Zimbalist, his view is regulation is inevitable. In fact, it felt like he’d already seen the future which should give everyone pause.

Paraphrasing his thoughts on the online consumer privacy legislation currently floating through the halls of Washington, he said that in the near term the well-known Boucher bill will likely get folded into the bill introduced by Congressman Bobby Rush –  a bill perceived as “smarter.”

Having spent time with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Leibovitz in Washington – Zimbalist characterized the FTC’s understanding of the online ad industry as it relates to online consumer privacy challenges as “very high.”

Finally, he concluded that it will be important for ad industry participants to abide by the Behavioral Advertising Self-Regulation Regime (BASR -yes, a new acronym) and warned that lawmakers are watching.

By John Ebbert

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