- Subcommittee members and witnesses discussed many facets of personal information use for marketing purposes, such as how consumer data is collected, the types of data that businesses collect, consumers’ ability to access his or her personal information held by marketers, and consumer education concerning privacy matters.
- Participants discussed elements that could be addressed in future legislation included increasing transparency and choice, consumer education, and providing consumers with a clear statement of their rights–such as the ability to "opt in" and/or "opt out" of having personal data collected. Witnesses, such as Chris Hoofnagle with the University of California, Berkley – School of Law, encouraged consumer education measures, noting that most consumers are unaware of their obligation to object to data collection practices with which they do not agree, and that many consumers assume that personal information collected by companies is secure–which may not always be the case.
- Many of the witnesses advocated privacy protection through a self-regulatory scheme, but Subcommittee members countered that self-regulation is ineffective at stopping "bad actors" and comprehensive legislation is necessary to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses.
- Finally, almost all of the witnesses stressed that legislation should be tailored to meet the needs of different types of businesses and industries, as well as creating different standards to regulate the offline versus online collection and use of personal information.
The FTC has announced the agenda for the first of three privacy roundtables the Commission will host to discuss the privacy challenges posed by current technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data.
On December 7, 2009, at the FTC Conference Center in Washington, DC, panelists will discuss:
- Benefits and risks of collecting, using, and retaining consumer data;
- Consumer expectations and disclosures;
- Online behavioral advertising;
- Information brokers; and
- Exploring existing regulatory frameworks
The roundtable will also be available via live webcast.
The FTC has also announced that the second roundtable will be held at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law on January 28, 2010.
General information about the series of roundtables is available here.
- The FTC should pursue enforcement actions against all businesses involved in unfair privacy practices, not just spyware companies.
- The FTC should use its subpoena power to acquire information about company privacy practices.
- The Commission should encourage Congress to pass general consumer privacy legislation that would allow the FTC to draft its own set of consumer privacy rules to clarify basic privacy expectations and strengthen privacy protection.
- The FTC should establish benchmarks and metrics for evaluating company privacy policies, and the Commission should more actively promote the development of privacy-enhancing technology.
On September 15, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission unveiled a series of public roundtables that will focus on the effect of modern technology and business practices on the privacy of consumer information. The goal of the panels is to explore how to best balance the concerns for consumer privacy, beneficial use of consumer information and technological innovation. The discussions will address myriad technologies and practices, such as social networking, cloud computing, behavioral marketing, mobile marketing and, generally, the collection of consumer information for various purposes. The roundtables will also consider the adequacy of existing legal and self-regulatory frameworks. Participants will include academics, privacy experts, consumer advocates, industry representatives, technology experts, legislators, and experts from outside the United States. The Commission has asked individuals and organizations to submit requests to participate as panelists and suggest discussion topics. The Commission also has asked interested parties to submit written comments and research on the issues of (i) risks, concerns and benefits associated with the collection and use of consumer information, (ii) consumer expectations of how their information is used, and (iii) the adequacy of existing legal requirements and self-regulatory regimes in protecting consumer privacy interests.
Click here for more information on the Commission’s news release.