Advocacy Groups Urge FTC to Ban Big Tech Surveillance Advertising

November 18, 2022 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — The American Economic Liberties Project and Center for Digital Democracy submitted a comment to the Federal Trade Commission today in order to urge the agency to ban the use of surveillance advertising, an intrusive practice that tracks and profiles individuals to target them with advertisements.

“Surveillance advertising is both a violation of our privacy but also an unfair method of competition that further cements big tech’s control over digital markets,” said Erik Peinert, Research Manager and Editor at the American Economic Liberties Project, “Technology giants like Google and Meta use their dominant position to vacuum up personal data and algorithmically process it at a scale that other companies cannot, and combine it across many business lines that other companies do not have.”

“The privacy of Americans has been decimated by decades-long abuse of our personal information by giant online platforms and other surveillance marketers,” said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “An immense, unaccountable, and manipulative data-driven apparatus continually monitors our behaviors online—when we use social media, mobile devices, streaming media, gaming, search and ecommerce sites.  Our health, financial, racial, ethnic, religious, location and family data is stealthily transformed into constantly updated and personalized digital dossiers.  The FTC has an obligation to issue rules that end pervasive commercial surveillance in U.S. It’s time for sane policies that simultaneously ensure competition, consumer protection and privacy.”

Economic Liberties and the Center for Digital Democracy’s comment focuses on the harms posed by surveillance advertising, the practice of extensively tracking and profiling individuals and groups, and then microtargeting them based on their behavioral history, relationships, and identity for advertising. The comment argues that allowing this practice in any form is dangerous and anticompetitive, since it will still allow a few dominant players to amass and benefit from the massive swaths of data they collect. Economic Liberties and the Center for Digital Democracy propose a straightforward rule to entirely ban the practice, which will help restore competition in digital advertising and protect internet users from massive invasions of their privacy.

Learn more about Economic Liberties here.


The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.