|April 11, 1997
Office of the Secretary
Re: Consumer Privacy 1997 -- Comment, P954807
Response to question 3.11
On April 21, 1997, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus will publish a newly revised edition of its Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising, including a new section addressing concerns unique to the interactive electronic media. [A copy is attached to this comment; the new section is at pages 11 - 14.] One section specifically addresses the critical issues of data collection from children.
Since its founding in 1974 by the advertising industry, CARU has worked in voluntary cooperation with that industry to ensure that advertising directed to children is truthful, accurate, and sensitive to the unique characteristics of its young audience. Over the years the scope of CARU's review has grown along with the marketing venues to children. Encompassing mainly toys and cereal advertising at its inception, it has come to include the vast number of products and services, including pay-per-call teleprograms, now marketed to children. This same model is the appropriate one for the new online media.
CARU's self-regulatory program has the broad support and cooperation of the children's advertising industry. Although compliance with the Guidelines is voluntary and carry no sanctions per se, the results of all inquiries are published in the NAD Case Reports subjecting violators to public opprobrium. Further, CARU's Procedures provide for referral of non-complying advertising to appropriate government agencies. It is worth noting that in CARU's twenty-three year history, only three inquires have been referred (two to the Federal Trade Commission and one to the Federal Communication Commission), a reflection of the industry's high level of commitment to the program.
In crafting its new Guidelines CARU and its Advisory Board, comprising respected experts in child development, education and communication, and industry leaders, consulted extensively with advertisers, consumer groups and trade associations to identify those areas unique to the online media. Privacy, a new focus for CARU, was readily identified as the most critical one. This inclusive and comprehensive process began in June of 1995 and was well under way at the time of the Commission's June 1996 Privacy Workshop.
These new guidelines are intended as an interim minimum voluntary standard from which CARU and the industry itself will raise the bar. The goal is the protection of children and the empowerment of parents to monitor and control their children's disclosure of personal information. They call for advertisers who collect information from children online to use "reasonable efforts in light of the latest available technology to insure that parental permission is obtained."
As of this writing, in some instances reasonable efforts for some Websites might constitute a clear notice and opt-out to parents. For other sites, such as subscription sites or services where there is opportunity directly to ascertain parents' privacy preferences at the time they sign up, prior verifiable permission could be the standard. The reasonable efforts required by the guidelines will evolve along with technological developments, greater understanding of children's use of the media, and the means by which the current language is implemented.
With the publication of its new guidelines, CARU will be working with the advertising community which has been committed to our self-regulatory system to educate them about the applicable standards and goals and to devise means of meeting and raising those standards. Several industry groups such as the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information and Entertainment (CASIE) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) have issued comprehensive guides for privacy in interactive marketing. These and others are the broader foundation on which CARU's children's guidelines are overlaid to afford effective and meaningful protection to children in the new interactive electronic environment.