The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

Inside the Session: Chris Wolf on Behavioral Advertising at the 59th Antitrust Law Spring Meeting

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Editor’s Note:  “Inside the Session” is a sneak preview of the privacy and information security-related sessions that will take place at  the 59th Antitrust Law Spring Meeting.  For more information on the conference, visit the ABA’s page on the event.


It’s no secret that, over the past several years, companies have embraced behavioral targeting to deliver personalized online advertising.  Nor is it any secret that legislators and regulators have been paying close attention to this topic.  The Secure Times recently spoke with Christopher Wolf, who will serve as session moderator of a Spring Meeting session entitled “Zeroing in on Behavioral Targeting”  Chris is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Hogan Lovell who practices in the field of privacy and data security law.  He also is the founder and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank, which is examining the behavioral advertising issues.  He gave us a sneak preview of what to expect from the session on Wednesday, March 30, from 3:45-5:15pm.


Secure Times: To what extent are private law suits really shaping regulatory guidance and enforcement? 

Chris Wolf:  I think the privacy regulators, and I am speaking principally of those at the FTC, decide where to focus and what to investigate based on a variety of inputs, such as complaints from consumers, suggestions from privacy advocates, reports of data security breaches, news stories and the work of their own investigators.  The regulators are quite aware of what is going on in the data collection and sharing ecosystem.  I would doubt that the bringing of private party lawsuits, which often take the form of putative class actions, are influential by themselves in shaping regulatory action.  The regulators and plaintiffs’ counsel may be focusing on the same companies and the same conduct, but it is doubtful that the plaintiffs’ bar is setting the regulators’ agenda.

Secure Times: What is the key issue that you anticipate the panel discussing? 

Chris Wolf:  Online tracking of consumers without their knowledge or consent is likely to be a hot topic at the panel, along with a discussion of the so-called “Do Not Track” proposal that is being widely discussed.  We will have a great cross-section of views on the panel, including the head of the privacy division at the FTC, a senior  lawyer in a state attorney general’s office, a class action plaintiff’s lawyers and a lawyer who represents online companies.  

Secure Times: What do you think is at the heart of the issue? 

Chris Wolf:  At the heart of the issue is how can we improve consumer privacy, especially with respect to the unwanted collection of online information to deliver ads?  Is it through increased FTC regulation under Section 5?  Is it through State Attorney General actions?  Is it through new federal laws?  Is it through class actions?  And what role does self-regulation play?  These are the issues the panel will address.   

Secure Times: What points should the audience take away from the session?

Chris Wolf: The audience is likely to learn that regulation of online data collection is not a simple matter.  They will hear how federal and state regulators approach the subject, the role of class actions, and the importance of self-regulation.  They will also hear that crafting a new law in this area is no simple matter. The major take-away will likely be that privacy law is a growing and increasingly important area of the law.  



Session Information: Zeroing in on Behavioral Targeting, Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:45-5:15pm        

Presented by the Communications & Digital Technology Industries, Consumer Protection, Corporate Counseling, Federal Civil Enforcement, Privacy & Information Security, Private Advertising Litigation, and State Enforcement Committees

Description: Behavioral targeting technologies have the potential to provide consumer benefits but may also cause substantial consumer harm.  Regulatory guidance and enforcement in this area is developing and being influenced by recent private lawsuits.  How has the legal landscape been affected by these lawsuits and what is the resulting regulatory outlook?

Session Chair:     Saira Nayak, Nayak Strategies, San Francisco, CA

Moderator:         Christopher Wolf, Hogan Lovells, Washington, DC


  • Becky Burr, WilmerHale, Washington, DC
  • Tina Kondo, Deputy Attorney General – Antitrust, Consumer, Public Counsel, Research & Revenue Divisions, Washington State Office of the Attorney General, Seattle, WA
  • Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC
  • David Parisi, Parisi & Havens LLP, Sherman Oaks, CA

Author: ABA Antitrust

Learn more about the ABA Section of Antitrust Law:

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