Just the other day I started receiving emails for plugins being promoted by some of the top players in Internet Marketing.
These plugins are designed to keep website owners in compliance with the new FTC regulations concerning privacy and website disclosers.
A few months back Hostgator, (my hosting service), sent me a PDF copy of the new regulations. At the time, I just sort of looked it over and thought, “I’ll get back to it later”, but these emails forced me to read it.
After recieving several emails from the Gurus telling me how urgent it was and that I needed to buy a plugin to solve this problem, I just had to do some checking.
Please note that you can get pre-made, fill-in the blank legal documents that can be used for just about any site that is not collecting personal information. Names, Email addresses, and phone numbers are not considered personal information.
You can get these pre-made legal documents here at only $11.95, I use them for all my websites.
Below is a copy of one of the emails I received, minus the links and contact information, (my comments are in bold italic).
Beginning January 1, 2014, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) will begin auditing and enforcing their Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, which focuses on making clear to website visitors when data is gathered for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).
Basically if you have a web site with any kind of ads, from AdSense, to simple Affiliate links, to Amazon reviews, even to pop ups or exit pops, they’re going to be looking to make sure your site complies with their new rules…(Part of that statement is not true)
They are targeting online marketers, product sellers, and even affiliates.
BUT, there’s a simple $7 plugin that fixes the problem for you...(the plug-in is not 7 dollars)
It’s your ticket to NOT being targeted & harassed!
This could easily mean the difference between staying under their radar and a whole bunch of trouble you don’t want!
These are scare tactics to get people to buy the plug-in. Although these plug-ins are not real expensive, they are not 7 bucks, and do you really need them?
The FTC did come out with some new regulations. Here is the key; you must be who you say you are. If you claim to be an expert, you must be an expert. If you claim you use have tried, or know about a product, you better know it. If you are endorsing something for payment or commission, you must reveal that information.
I usually just work it into my article. and let people know right off the bat that I use, have researched, or am or am not affiliated with the product or service. I believe that to be the best way because according to the regulation, that information must be in plain view and not hidden within your site. If you work it into your article it fulfills that requirement while building trust with your reader.
Here’s the thing, after reading the PDF from the FTC, I discovered that the rules have not changed much. Disclosier is key, and the biggest thing they are looking to crack down on is Behavioral Advertising. If you do not know what that is, then it is safe to say you do not need to worry about it. It is also known as Database Marketing.
Database Marketing is defined as; collecting and utilizing customer data for the purposes enhancing interactions with customers and developing customer loyalty. This came strait from my Marketing textbook (Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications; Kenneth E. Clow, Donald Baack 5th Edition 2012)
Behavioral advertising takes this a step further. I am going to try to explain this the best I can without writing a whole different article.
Whenever we visit a website, cookies and other things are stored on our browsers. That is why whenever you visit certain sites, lets say a site about shoes. You check out the site, look at various brands and such, then click out.
Now you are on to something else. You log into Facebook, and the next thing you know, you are noticing all kinds of ads about shoes. You go on to something else and are still seeing all these ads about shoes. Do you think that is coincidence? No, it is behavioral advertising at work. Your IP was recorded and information was stored connecting those cookies to the databases. Keep in mind, I am just trying to explain this as simply as I can, there is more to it.
Advertisers can use software and programs to collect this information. No personal information is collected, but they know your IP, your location, age group, and the things of interest to you. This why I say that if you are not pro-actively engaging in this activity, you need not worry about it.
Having affiliate links on your website is not Behavioral Marketing. Having an opt-in squeeze page and building an email list is not Behavioral Marketing. These people opt-in and can opt-out. Bottom line is; don’t let the Gurus scare you into buying something you don’t need. Just find out what is required for your site.
I am just wondering if the biggest players in this sort of activity will be held accountable. Who are they? Google, Bing and other search engines. Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and such. Personally, I think they will be given a pass and not be held to the same standards as others.
I also want to note that this is being billed as a voluntary agreement to “self regulate” by the BBB, DMA and others and overseen by the BBB as a request by the FTC. I still say this is a slippery slope. Today it is a request, tomorrow it is an appointment, and then comes total authority of enforcement. (Quote from Privacy Law site “The Better Business Bureau (“BBB”) and the Direct Marketing Association (“DMA”) are in charge of enforcing the ad industry’s Self Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (“OBA Principles”),
Here is a quote from that PDF to help people understand their role and compliance.
“The Accountability Principle calls for programs to have mechanisms by which they
can police entities engaged in online behavioral advertising and help bring these
entities into compliance. Programs will also publicly report instances of uncorrected
violations to the appropriate government agencies”.
Here is a list of my resource links;
I would really like some thoughts and feedback on this.
Download your copy of the FTC guidelines here
Here are the two videos I made concerning this and my frustration over the BBB and the DSA given the authority to enforce regulation or law.
I have put together a comprehensive package of prepared leal documents that anyone can use for any website or blog. These documents are ready to edit. All you have to do is go through them and follow the “fill in the blanks” instuctions.