Online-Ad Hearing Postponed

Senate Commerce Committee Delays Hearing on Privacy and Online Advertising

The Senate Commerce Committee postponed a hearing on privacy and online advertising.

The hearing, which was only called five days ago, was scheduled for Wednesday (June 18), but Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who called for the hearing, asked that it be postponed. According to a spokesman for the senator, the issue appeared to be accommodating the potential witnesses.

Those witnesses were expected to talk about the state of online advertising and marketing, including behavioral marketing, the impact on users' privacy and what protections should be afforded by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

The online-advertising issue has been heating up in Washington, D.C., driven by concerns about Internet-service providers’ access to data and the merging of search and advertising functions. Just last week, the chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee said the ad partnership of Google and Yahoo would get a thorough going-over by his committee.

Key members of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee also weighed in with “serious concerns" about reports that Charter Communications planned to track Web-site visits by its Internet customers and share that information with an ad firm, asking it to hold off on those plans.

For some, the issue has become the new-media-ownership battleground. “Online privacy now is a kind of shorthand for who will control the new-media monopoly landscape,” said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. “With advertising revenues for traditional media deteriorating, the emerging main source of funding for content production will be online advertising.”

Chester has been pushing the FTC to pay more attention to the online-ad space.