Remarks of FTC Commissioner Slaughter to National Advertising Division

We’ve been busy these last few months at the [Federal Trade Commission]. We’ve begun the work of revitalizing and strengthening our regulatory and enforcement tools and taking our statutory obligations and legal authorities more seriously to advance the work of protecting consumers and promoting competition. An important part of keeping our work fresh and effective is challenging assumptions about everything from market operation, enforcement objectives, and the agency’s strategic approach. I’d like to frame my remarks around assumptions that I believe are particularly in need of challenge in the online advertising ecosystem. Specifically, I want to push back against the following erroneous points of conventional wisdom that I think tend to undergird legal and policy debate about digital surveillance: (1) privacy is the key issue; (2) transparency is the key solution; (3) the policy options are limited to opt-in or opt-out; (4) surveillance advertising is necessary to support free services; and (5) the FTC is toothless absent new federal legislation. All of those statements are flawed. I want not only to explain why I believe they are flawed but also to outline a vision for an ad-supported internet future that is better grounded in the realities of today’s markets and the law.

Disputing the Dogmas of Surveillance Advertising, National Advertising Division Keynote 2021