CDT Comments in Federal Trade Commission Privacy Roundtable

Just had some plane time and a chance to read the Center for Democracy and Technology’s  comments submitted to the FTC on business practices for the collection and use of consumer data. If you haven’t already read it -and you’re interested in privacy- it’s very informative and raises some compelling points.

The FTC is conducting a public roundtable discussion to explore this topic further and gather views and recommendations. A host of other parties have also submitted comments and the first discussion is in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 2009.

In short, the CDT argues that the current framework of notice, consent, and security is insufficient because consumers are still left exposed to unfair practices even though they were technically informed by the privacy policy of the service provider.  CDT goes on to urge the FTC to adopt a more comprehensive privacy framework described as Fair Information Practice Principles.

CDT also makes a number of specific recommendations for FTC action, including:

  • The FTC should reaffirm that violating FIPs can result in consumer harm. The Commission should pursue enforcement actions against those engaged in unfair practices, not just in the spyware space, but in the general realm of online consumer privacy.  The FTC should use these actions to highlight violations of any or all of the FIPs, not merely notice, choice, and security. Query whether this would provide a cause of action for toolbars or add-ons that furtively change user preferences?
  • The FTC should encourage Congress to pass general consumer privacy legislation that is based on a full set of FIPS. Self-regulation cannot adequately protect consumer privacy…
  • The FTC should consider drafting its own set of consumer privacy rules if it is granted standard rule making authority to clarify basic privacy expectations for consumers and businesses alike.
  • The FTC should explore creating benchmarks and metrics for evaluating company privacy polices.

Although very subjective, this notion of “fairness” really resonates and may have (should have) broader implications.  There is plenty of room to better incorporate such principles in privacy policies, terms of use, and new web services that are presented to users, but at the same time fairness should also include some reasonable balance between the interests of both users and service providers.  No doubt there’s going to be a lot more discussion on this topic and more to learn here.

3 Responses to CDT Comments in Federal Trade Commission Privacy Roundtable

  1. Havvy says:

    I note that any regulations enforced by the FTC lead to loss of freedom of free association between user and distributor. Futuremore, I note that regulation never accomplishes its goal without side effects that need more regulation or a lowering of competition and invention. For proof to these statements, I point you to the website I am linking to.

    If the FTC wishes to improve security, they could, and probably should, give out a list of recommendations for distributors to follow, and give a badge of validation of some sort that users can check with accuracy that a site is following such recommendations.

  2. Rick Johnson says:

    Well, Havvy, if you’re talking about that Austrian site you’re linking too… sorry, but I can’t see where that proves a damn thing. Unless you can come up with more than hyperbolic statements such as FTC involvement leads “to loss of freedome of free association between user and distributor” you’re only blowing smoke.

    The FTC jumps into an issue and corrals the bad actors, puts restraints on bad practices. It hardly lowers competition and “invention” (I think you mean “innovation).

  3. Rice says:

    Was there a time when you didnt like me?