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FTC updates privacy guidelines for online advertisers

12 Mar 2013

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has updated a set of guidelines designed to help online advertisers avoid running afoul of regulations on deceptive advertising and disclosures.

The FTC said that it would be updating a report it first issued in 2000 as a self-guidance tool for companies looking to advertise on the web. The revised "Dot Com Disclosures" will be available for free through the FTC website.

In updating the report, the FTC said that it was looking to provide advertisers with guidance on issues which have since arisen with the emergence of social networking platforms and the growth of the mobile web.

The commission's updated report touches on issues such as customising advertisements to correctly display on the smaller screens of mobile devices and correctly disclosing information in the brief space offered in social network ads.

"If a disclosure is needed to prevent an online ad claim from being deceptive or unfair, it must be clear and conspicuous," the FTC said in announcing its updates.

"Under the new guidance, this means advertisers should ensure that the disclosure is clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad."

The FTC hopes that that updated guidelines will help firms from inadvertently running afoul of laws which require clear and concise disclosure of terms and claims made in advertisements. By providing the education materials, the FTC could potentially save time and money pursuing cases against firms which had not purposely intended to mislead users.

The Commission said that the guidelines, which passed without a dissenting vote, were influenced in part by feedback gained from the public during comment periods and a 2012 advertising workshop event.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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