United States: How Online Advertisers May Steal Your Personal Information: Recommendations For Protecting Consumers

Last Updated: May 21 2014
Article by Adam M. Veness

The United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations recently released a report outlining six findings concerning online advertising risks to consumers' personal information and four recommendations on how to protect consumers from these hidden hazards.

FINDINGS

1) Consumers risk exposure to malware through everyday activity. Consumers can incur malware attacks by simply visiting even a mainstream website and without taking any action such as clicking an advertisement. The complexity of online advertising makes it impossible for consumers to avoid advertising malware attacks or identify the source of the malware exposure and determine whether the ad network or host website could have prevented the attack.

2) The complexity of current online advertising practices impedes industry accountability for malware attacks. The online advertising industry has grown in complexity to the point that each party can conceivably disclaim responsibility when malware is delivered to a user's computer through an advertisement. Due to the many layers of intermediaries through which online advertisements often travel before appearing in a user's browser, the ad networks themselves rarely deliver the actual advertisement from their own servers and the owners of the host website visited by a user often does not know what advertisements will be shown on their site.

3) Self-regulatory bodies alone have not been adequate to ensure consumer security online. Self-regulatory codes of conduct in online advertising do not fully address consumer security from malware. Interestingly, self-regulatory efforts in online security to date have been dependent on online ad networks for funding and viability, which creates a potential conflict of interest in their dual roles as industry advocates and standard-setting bodies.

4) Visits to mainstream websites can expose consumers to hundreds of unknown and potentially dangerous third parties. Even visiting a mainstream website exposes consumers to hundreds of third parties, and each of those third parties may be capable of collecting information on the consumer and may be a potential source of malware.

5) Consumer safeguards are currently inadequate to protect against online advertising abuses, including malware, invasive cookies, and inappropriate data collection. Self-regulatory codes do not significantly address online advertising security and data collection protections are often limited in scope and underutilized. Current FTC safeguards are insufficient to protect consumers from online advertising abuses, and cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to evade existing security methods.

6) Current systems may not create sufficient incentives for online advertising participants to prevent consumer abuses. Due to the difficulty in determining responsibility for malware attacks and inappropriate data collection through online advertisements, online advertising participants may not be fully incentivized to establish effective consumer safeguards against abuses.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To remedy the problems identified above, the Senate Subcommittee proposed four recommendations to tighten online advertising protocols and protect consumers.

1) Establish better practices and clearer rules to prevent online advertising abuses. Currently, legal responsibility for damages caused through malvertising usually rests only with the fraudulent actor in question. Since these actors are rarely caught and even less frequently able to pay damages, the harm caused is often borne by consumers. Sophisticated commercials entities, large and small, should take steps to reduce system vulnerabilities in their advertising network, and if they fail to do so, then regulatory or legislative change may be needed to incentivize such entities to increase security for advertisements that run through their systems.

2) Strengthen security information exchanges within the online advertising industry to prevent abuses. Online advertising companies are often hesitant to share information regarding security hazards because of fears they will be accused of violating federal antitrust laws by cooperating with competitors. The Department of Justice and the FTC recently issued joint guidance suggesting that sharing of cyber threat-related information would not trigger antitrust liability and those agencies should clarify the extent to which online advertising participants may exchange information about security hazards. If necessary, Congress should pass legislation that removes legal impediments to the sharing of actionable cyber-threat related information and create incentives for the voluntary sharing of such information.

3) Clarify specific prohibited practices in online advertising to prevent abuses and protect consumers. Self-regulatory bodies should develop comprehensive security guidelines for preventing online advertising malware attacks. In the absence of such self-regulation, the FTC should consider stepping in and issuing regulations to prohibit unfair and deceptive online advertising practices. Greater specificity in prohibited or discouraged practices is needed before the overall security situation in online advertising can improve.

4) Develop additional "circuit breakers" to protect consumers. Given the complexity of online advertising, more "circuit breakers" should be incorporated into the online advertising system to introduce checkpoints and ensure that malicious advertisements are caught at an earlier stage before transmission to consumers.

CONCLUSION

The Senate Subcommittee's report sheds light on the serious concerns in online advertising due to little or no accountability for fraudulent actors and a lack of regulation in place to protect consumers against malicious online advertising. The report further provides case studies of certain dangers in online advertising, and the full report can be accessed here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Adam M. Veness
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions