Democratic lawmakers Rep. Anna Eshoo of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey wrote to the FTC requesting for regulations on surveillance advertising. Through a letter titled as “Petition for Rulemaking by Accountable Tech,” the two Democratic lawmakers conveyed that the practice should be banned or at the least, have limitations across various digital platforms.

The letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was sent shortly after Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Booker introduced a bill called “Banning Surveillance Advertising Act.” The bill is still pending and if it passes, it would officially prohibit the practice that permits advertisers to track and use personal and sensitive user-data.

What is Surveillance Advertising?

Surveillance Advertising refers to the practice wherein “cookies” are used to personalize advertisements directly sent to Internet users. Cookies, refer to the personal back office data left by website visitors, which most of the time include sensitive information. This technique has become a predominant practice in online advertising, since paid advertisements bring extra sources of income for the hosting websites.

Rep. Anna Eshoo in a press release explained how the surveillance advertising business model collects and hoards personal data to enable advertisers to send out ads directly targeting consumers. It empowers online platforms not only to pursue user engagement. It can also encourage the opposite, such as user discrimination, voter suppression and privacy abuses among many others.

The two Democratic lawmakers elaborated on how targeted advertisements can be utilized by foreign adversaries and entities to collect personal data. Tracking personal data and user-targeted ads help in spreading misinformation, which according to Booker and Eshoo are serious concerns.