The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has entered into a Consent Order to resolve a complaint brought against a digital advertising company, Turn Inc. Turn provided advertisers with the ability to engage in targeted advertising by tracking consumer’s activities or characteristics to deliver ads tailored to the consumer’s interests.  The FTC alleged that Turn violated federal law by falsely representing to consumers the extent to which consumers could restrict the company’s tracking of their activities and the extent to which Turn’s opt-out applied to mobile app advertising.

According to the FTC Complaint, Turn misrepresented that consumers could prevent Turn’s tracking by blocking or limiting cookies. The FTC claimed that even if a consumer deleted cookies or reset their device, Turn would nonetheless be able to recognize the users by cross-referencing other data to which it had access.

The proposed Consent Order requires, among other things, that Turn: 1) cease misrepresentations regarding what consumer information it collects and/or shares; 2) create an opt-out option that limits tracking by Turn; 3) post a “clear and conspicuous hyperlink” on its website that will take consumers to another page to explain what information Turn collects and uses for targeted advertising; 4) describe on its web site the technologies and methods it uses for targeted advertising; and 5) retain documents relating to compliance for five years. The Consent Order will become final after a 30-day public comment period. See the analysis of the FTC’s Consent Order.

The Consent Order demonstrates the significant and ongoing focus by the FTC on the accuracy of disclosures and statements regarding consumer information. This includes disclosures and statements made in website privacy statements and terms of use. Companies are advised to review their communications with customers and potential customers to be sure those communications are aligned with the companies’ practices and procedures. Such an assessment would help to reduce the possibility of an FTC complaint.