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Online advertising poses significant security, privacy risks to users, US Senate report says

Lucian Constantin | May 16, 2014
The current state of online advertising endangers the security and privacy of users and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission should force the industry to offer better protections through comprehensive regulation, the U.S. Senate said in a report.

The investigation determined that the industry's self-regulatory bodies and their codes do not properly address the malware issue and available data-collection protections are limited.

"In the absence of effective self-regulation, the FTC should consider issuing comprehensive regulations to prohibit deceptive and unfair online advertising practices that facilitate or fail to take reasonable steps to prevent malware, invasive cookies, and inappropriate data collection delivered to Internet consumers through online advertisements," the subcommittee said. "Greater specificity in prohibited or discouraged practices is needed before the overall security situation in the online advertising industry can improve."

Google, Facebook, Twitter and AOL recently founded TrustInAds.org, an organization aimed at making consumers aware of ad-related scams, sharing best practices, identifying trends in deceptive ads, and sharing its knowledge with policy makers and consumer advocates.

"Online advertising companies have battled these issues for years — dating all the way back to the infant stages of their respective platforms," Rob Haralson, executive director of TrustInAds.org said Wednesday in a blog post. "Many have developed large-scale systems to scan for malicious code, not only in the advertisements they serve, but also across the billions of sites that make up the web. And while our industry has made significant progress in fighting bad ads, the level of sophistication by scammers reaches new heights at every turn."

 

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