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Digital publishing industry calls for national privacy rules

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Digital Content Next (DCN), the publishing trade group that represents digital publishers such as The New York Times and Condé Nast, says it supports national privacy legislation, according to comments it has filed in response to a new national privacy rule proposal.

Why it matters: Like other data-driven industries, the digital publishing business is pushing for a unified privacy regulation rather than face dozens of different state and regional regulations.

The background: Last month, major tech and advertising companies like AT&T, Google, Facebook and Apple began making the same case.

  • States like California and New Jersey have already begun introducing state-wide privacy measures, as have different regions globally, most notably the E.U.

On Friday, most of the major data-driven advertising trade groups also submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), rebuking a federal privacy regulation and calling for a more "reasonable" privacy enforcement standard.

Between the lines: Like its industry rivals, the digital publishers say they agree with the national privacy standard being proposed by the Trump Administration, but says it fails to address some of the unique data use cases within the digital ecosystem.

  • DCN argues that large platforms like Google and Facebook — companies they've lobbied against aggressively for their digital ad dominance for years — use consumers' data in an opaque way, and thus should be subject to stricter regulations.
  • Specifically, they say users shouldn't need to opt in as rigorously to all data-collecting activities on digital publisher websites, because there is an understanding that those websites are using data collection for transparent purposes like fraud prevention and content personalization.
  • They argue that any company that wants to use consumer data outside of an obvious context must provide a choice for those users to opt out of that service. (For example, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook let third-parties access consumer data for shady marketing practices, is an example of what a non-obvious context would be.)

Yes, but: Digital publishers still use data collection for automated marketing, just like the bigger platforms do, and data collection for advertising purposes can sometimes be confusing to consumers.

  • Most publishers give dozens of third-party marketing firms access to consumers' first party data to enhance the marketing experience for consumers, but also to make it easier and more efficient for advertisers.
  • Still, for publishers that go beyond using first-party data, DCN says this rule should apply to them as well.

The bottom line: Digital publishers are for the first time calling for a national privacy regulation as an industry, but they want the rule to put more scrutiny on bigger platforms that have been eating its ad revenue.

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