The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

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FTC Holds Workshop on Journalism in the Internet Age

On December 1 and 2, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop — "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" — exploring how the Internet has affected journalism and discussing a wide range of news-organization related issues, such as the economics of journalism in print and online, new business models for journalism online, and the ways in which journalism costs could be reduced while still maintaining quality. 
Commentators on this week’s workshop have noted that what was not discussed — notably behavioral advertising and other types of targeted online advertising — is as important as issues that were discussed.  Future regulation of consumer privacy and behavioral advertising is still unsettled as legislators and regulators debate the scope of potential privacy legislation and new rules or models that will regulate the industry.
Further debate on this topic is likely to continue at the Federal Trade Commission’s first Privacy Roundtable that will be held on Monday, December 7, at the Federal Trade Commission Conference Center in Washington, D.C.  A live webcast of this conference will be available at the FTC’s website. 

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House Subcommittees Hold Hearing to Address Potential Privacy Legislation

On November 19, 2009, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet conducted a hearing entitled "Exploring the Offline and Online Collection and Use of Consumer Information."  The hearing focused primarily on the collection, dissemination, and use of personal information from both online and offline sources, as well exploring privacy issues that should be addressed by future legislation.  Highlights of the hearing included:
  • 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. 
In a separate interview, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Bobby Rush (D-IL), indicated that a draft privacy bill would not be circulated before the end of the year. 

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House Committee Holds Hearing on Collection and Use of Consumer Information

On Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 10 a.m., the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet will hold a hearing, "Exploring the Offline and Online Collection and Use of Consumer Information," to examine the collection and commercial use of consumer data in both online and offline environments.  The hearing is scheduled to take place in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building and will also be broadcast live through a video Webcast available on the Committee of Energy and Commerce’s website and shown live on C-SPAN. 
Witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing include, George Pappachen from Kantar/WPP; Jennifer Barrett from Acxiom; Chris Hoofnagle from the University of California, Berkeley–School of Law; Zoe Strickland from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Michelle Bougie form and; and Pam Dixon from World Privacy Forum.  More information on the hearing can be found here.   

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FTC Announces Agenda for First Privacy Roundtable

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.

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CDT Submits Comments for FTC Consumer Privacy Roundtable

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has submitted comments for the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public roundtable discussions exploring the privacy challenges created by current and emerging technology, and business practices that involve the collection and use of consumer data.  The first in this series of FTC roundtable discussions will take place on December 7, 2009.  The CDT has urged the FTC to use these roundtable discussions to create a full set of fair information practice principles (FIPs) for a stronger privacy protection framework.  The CDT also made specific recommendations to improve privacy protection in the 21st century.
  • 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. 
The CDT’s full comments can be found here

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FTC Announces Public Roundtables on Consumer Privacy Issues

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.