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Innovation in Information Security

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FTC Moves to Ensure Compensated Reviews Are Clearly Identified

A recent decision by the FTC is going to require online content providers to explicitly disclose any payment or goods or services that they have received in return for providing a review on a product, and ensure advertisers can not present dramatic results and then claim that results aren't typical.

The new rules aren't going to be enforceable until the start of December, but it's really only going to be relevant for sites where it isn't already plainly obvious that a commercial or in-kind relationship exists. Those sites already risk their reputation by trying to sneak a review-with-benefits in amongst their regular content. Sometimes it works, but when it fails, the loss of credibility and trust amongst their readership can be critical.

This type of guerilla marketing tries to catch the potential market off-guard in an environment where they aren't expecting to be marketed to and while it can be effective, if it is exposed it tends to lead to dissatisfaction and disgust by the consumer and can see boycotts of the marketed products and the content provider who delivered the marketing. It can fall foul of existing deceptive marketing laws, so the steps being taken by the FTC are about making it clearer how the rules apply to the online environment.

We don't receive sponsorship or payment for articles that discuss specific technologies or products and choose not to run advertising alongside our articles in order to maintain a clear separation of interest. Our goal is to provide you, the reader, with the best service and content possible without risking muddying our message with potential conflicts of interest.

12 October 2009

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