April 10, 1997
Federal Trade Commission
Re: Consumer Privacy 1997 -- Comment, P954807
The Leo Burnett Company welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Federal Trade Commission on the issue of Consumer Privacy. The Leo Burnett Company is one of the world's leading advertising agencies. We are responsible for creating the advertising for our client companies which market some of the most widely recognized brands and services in the world. Headquartered in Chicago, Leo Burnett Company has seventy-seven offices in sixty-five countries throughout the world. Leo Burnett Company employs approximately 7,500 people around the globe.
Leo Burnett Company realizes there are tremendous issues to be addressed in regard to consumer privacy, and will seek to provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with an overview of ad industry efforts and principles which respond to FTC concerns.
Privacy and Security
The Leo Burnett Company believes that commerce can only thrive on the Internet if the privacy rights of consumers are balanced with those of the private sector, so both will benefit from the free flow of information. Accordingly, the advertising industry has supported the "Fairness Principle of Privacy" first outlined by the Privacy Working Group of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) in the NII Privacy Paper published in 1995. The "Fairness Principle" states that "(i)nformation users should not use personal information in ways that are incompatible with the individual's understanding of how it will be used." The goal of this principle is that the personal information should not be used in a way that goes beyond an individual's understanding and consent. If the manner of use of the information is not foreseen, then the consumer has not provided implicit consent, and the consumer may have to explicitly provide permission to share information.
Because the Internet is an invitational medium, not an intrusive one, information is brought into the home at the request of the consumer. Consumers only seek out information about products and/or services which they desire. Thus, such direct, one-to-one communication with consumers places control in the hands of the consumer rather than the media. In this environment, the quality and integrity of the information and content is key.
Once information is sought out by a consumer, we believe the privacy "Fairness Principle" (as referenced above) should be endorsed as the "guideline" for both commercial transactions and the gathering of personal data on the Internet. Both consumers and private industry must feel comfortable that such commercial transactions and gathering of personal data are secure.
The advertising industry has a responsibility to respect consumer privacy, yet consumers also may have a responsibility to become more savvy about sharing personal information. There is a need to balance the interests of the individual with the goals of commerce and business in this new media. Advertisers must balance the individual's right to privacy with the responsibility of information holders and transmitters.
Technology and Education
Technological advancements can often address concerns regarding privacy issues on the Internet, and technology can help alleviate government concerns regarding Internet access. Computer/Internet software exists that allows consumers to limit access to certain Internet sites or categories of sites. Such technology empowers the consumer, and in regard to concerns related to children, technology places access control in the hands of parents or guardians, and not the website owner. Technology offers solutions rather than regulations to Internet challenges, particularly if they do not limit the consumer's choice of information available.
Leo Burnett Company believes that technology and education are the keys to resolving privacy concerns. Industry must strive to continually improve technology that protects consumer privacy, and seek avenues to educate the public on accessing and using technology available on these issues.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), in an effort to educate the public on privacy issues on the Internet, has published an educational workbook entitled Get CyberSavvy. The Leo Burnett Company supports and endorses efforts such as the DMA's to educate consumers on these issues.
Leo Burnett Company agrees it is important to ensure that privacy policies provide adequate privacy protection to consumers, yet not impede the flow of information on the Internet. We strongly support a market based approach to privacy which incorporates privacy principles.
The Leo Burnett Company also endorses the DMA's guidelines on data collection and list rental practices which encourage marketers to periodically inform consumers who have provided them with data, that their information may be rented or sold for marketing purposes, and allow consumers the opportunity to opt-out of this marketing process. Again, the Leo Burnett Company believes that technological advancements and education will help alleviate privacy concerns in this area.
Integrity of Digital Information
The interactive medium is one based on digits, and thus, the integrity of that digital information is very important. The Leo Burnett Company supports an encryption policy that promotes and encourages the growth of global electronic commerce and secure communications. If advertising messages, and even substantiated claims, can be reformulated, redirected, altered, modified or copied through manipulation of digital information, such tampering could mislead consumers, and simultaneously damage an advertiser's credibility.
Leo Burnett Company would also like to point out that privacy concerns are not applicable only to the digital media and digital commerce, and therefore should not be treated any differently. Many corporations, including Visa and American Express, already gather consumer information through many sources - not just their websites. To illustrate this point, should a wine-enthusiast consumer purchase a case of wine with their credit card, the credit card company can share that information with a Napa Valley Wine Tour operator which sends the cardholder a brochure. The cardholder is likely to welcome this information. Yet if the credit card company shared the wine purchase information with the cardholder's health insurance company, the cardholder could object -- especially if their insurance rates increased as a result. Thus, we must remember that consumer privacy issues are the same no matter the medium.
No matter the medium, general advertising principles remain the same. Truthful and accurate advertising should be the cornerstone of all self-regulatory efforts for all media including the Internet.
Many self-regulatory bodies, including the National Advertising Division, the Children's Advertising Review Unit, and the Direct Marketing Association have forwarded guidelines which address internet privacy and advertising issues. These organizations have already begun to act upon consumer complaints, and to enforce truth in advertising on the Internet. The advertising industry must applaud and enforce industry attempts to self-regulate interactive advertising. Advertisers must be concerned about the credibility of advertising in the interactive media, for advertising will only lose credibility in cyberspace if false claims are easily disseminated. Marketers must support, endorse and promote a self-regulatory advertising environment that enhances the credibility of advertising and underlines a standard of truth in advertising.
The Leo Burnett Company strongly believes that advertising industry self-regulatory efforts should also be promoted, endorsed and supported by all concerned. We encourage the FTC to allow the private sector and the marketplace to further develop standards and technological solutions to privacy issues. Such solutions can empower consumers and help resolve Internet access issues. It would be inadvisable for governments to try to establish technical standards to "govern" or regulate the Internet, because technology is developing much too quickly.
Because the interactive on-line media is global in nature, advertisers, large and small, immediately become global advertisers on-line. The fact that an advertising claim may be viewed around the world creates unprecedented conflict of law issues.
We know that governments are meeting and discussing the technological implications of internet communication. Many different countries have varying laws and policies in the consumer privacy area, and the Leo Burnett Company strongly suggests that the FTC use the White House Magaziner approach to privacy as a guideline, and not embrace the severely restrictive guidelines of others as a standard in developing consumer privacy policies.
The Leo Burnett Company believes that the Internet will narrow the commercial globe and enhance international access to information. We commend the Federal Trade Commission for seeking comments on these very important issues that could have global ramifications on consumer privacy and marketing practices. The Leo Burnett Company believes that the creation of a coherent policy framework which allows both government and the private sector to work together to further develop technological solutions to Internet challenges, can only enhance the future of the global marketplace.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
LEO BURNETT COMPANY, INC.