Federal Trade Commission Pushes Forward With Online Privacy Initiative
Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the final version of its report on consumer privacy online. It issued a draft report in December 2010 and received over 450 comments in response, including those filed by USACM.
The final report retains the same general framework outlined in the December 2010 draft, and is broadly consistent with the effort to develop a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights announced by the Obama Administration last month. In announcing the release of the report, the FTC indicated it would focus on the following areas in its online privacy work over the next several months.
Do-Not-Track – The Commission commends the progress made in this area: browser vendors have developed tools to allow consumers to limit data collection about them, the Digital Advertising Alliance has developed its own icon-based system and also committed to honor the browser tools, and the World Wide Web Consortium standards-setting body is developing standards. “The Commission will work with these groups to complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system,” the report says.
Mobile – The FTC urges companies offering mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including disclosures. To that end, it will host a workshop on May 30, 2012 to address how mobile privacy disclosures can be short, effective, and accessible to consumers on small screens.
Data Brokers – The Commission calls on data brokers to make their operations more transparent by creating a centralized website to identify themselves, and to disclose how they collect and use consumer data. In addition, the website should detail the choices that data brokers provide consumers about their own information.
Large Platform Providers – The report cited heightened privacy concerns about the extent to which platforms, such as Internet Service Providers, operating systems, browsers and social media companies, seek to comprehensively track consumers’ online activities. The FTC will host a public workshop in the second half of 2012 to explore issues related to comprehensive tracking.
Promoting Enforceable Self-Regulatory Codes – The FTC will work with the Department of Commerce and industry stakeholders to develop industry-specific codes of conduct. To the extent that strong privacy codes are developed, when companies adhere to these codes, the FTC will take that into account in its law enforcement efforts. If companies do not honor the codes they sign up for, they could be subject to FTC enforcement actions.