The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is threatening publicly to humiliate companies if they continue to advertise using ad-serving software.
FTC commissioner Jon Liebowitz said at an event hosted by the Anti-Spyware Coalition that the move would aid the fight against adware that tracks users online and displays unwanted pop-up ads.
"I think that this could have a beneficial effect," he said. "In this context, maybe shaming a company on how they are spending money might benefit consumer privacy."
Leibowitz also suggested publicly shaming advertisers to the other FTC commissioners if the adware issue does not subside.
Trevor Hughes, executive director of the Network Advertising Initiative, referred to the move as "drastic action".
"There are well intentioned advertisers out there that do not understand where their ads are appearing," he said. "It is easy to shame those advertisers, but that does not solve the problem."
Hughes added that the real issue is the way online advertising is handled, pointing out that many companies hand it over to a third party.
However, Jules Polonetsky, vice president of integrity assurance at AOL, said: "If you simply rely on a policy that you announce, or on a promise from your partner, you will be burned.
"In today's networked world you have to do due diligence to ensure that your brand does not show up in an offensive location."
AOL has a policy of not advertising using adware, according to Polonetsky, and keeps close tabs on the companies that handle its advertising.
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