FTC Publishes Guidelines on Cross-Device Tracking

Just about everyone these days accesses the internet on multiple devices. Whether it is a PC and smartphone, a phone and tablet, office PC and laptop, or any other type of combination (or more likely, all of the above), ad networks work hard to track activities on all of them. When ad networks can track a single person’s activity across multiple devices, they are much more able to serve up relevant ads at the right times, which makes them far more valuable.

This also opens up a lot of issues related to privacy since many people don’t want everything they do on their multiple devices to be tracked. This is why the FTC put on a workshop in Washington, D.C. to inform stakeholders about how to balance business needs with the rights of consumers, and security.

They then released a report based on the information gathered at the workshop. Many people were expecting the FTC to condemn cross-device tracking, but that isn’t really what happened. They identified five benefits that are provided by using this technology. They were:

  • Seamless Experience – Consumers will have a more uniform experience across all their devices because of this type of tracking.
  • Fraud Prevention – Fraud is less likely when companies know what types of activities can be expected. Fraudulent ads aren’t going to be so targeted since they are looking to get as many views as possible.
  • Improved Experience – Marketers can serve up more relevant ads, which can actually contribute to the consumer’s overall digital experience rather than detract from it.
  • Competition – The more targeted ads can be, the better the competition will be.
  • Prevents Oversaturation – When ads aren’t targeted users are more likely to be shown the same generic type ads over and over again all day. With cross-device tracking, oversaturation is less of an issue.

Of course, there are also issues that marketers need to be aware of discussed in the report. Making sure consumers are aware of the tracking, giving them easy ways to opt out, avoiding privacy concerns (anonomyzing the data), and other things are addressed.

In the report, the FTC recommends that companies self-regulate to find the right balance between tracking, and consumer needs. Some areas of focus that are recommended include transparency, choice, data sensitivity, and security.

The full report from the FTC is available HERE.

What's your opinion?