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FTC Issues Long-Awaited Privacy Report

Posted in Federal Trade Commission, Legislation, Online Advertising, Privacy Regulation

Written by Adam Veness

Earlier today, the FTC held a press conference and issued a final report setting forth best practices for businesses to protect American consumers and to provide consumers with greater control over the collection and use of their data.  You can find the full report here:  Final Commission Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy.

The final report is an expansion of the preliminary staff report the FTC issued in December 2010.  In its press release, the FTC explains that the report calls on companies handling consumer data to implement recommendations for protecting privacy, including:

  •  Privacy By Design – companies should build in consumers’ privacy protections at every stage in developing their products. These include reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy;
  •  Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers – companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom. This should include a Do-Not-Track mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities; and
  •  Greater Transparency – companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers’ information, and provide consumers access to the data collected about them.

In the press release, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz suggested: “We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don’t.”  This statement acts as a warning to companies that they must take the initiative to act on their own in implementing an effective Do Not Track system, or likely face legislation requiring them to do so.

Other important issues discussed in the final report and the press release include privacy protections and disclosures related to: companies offering mobile services, data brokers and large platform providers.

For more information related to the FTC report and press release issued today, click on the links below or contact a member of the Mintz Levin Privacy team.

FTC press release

Final Commission Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy

UPDATE – Comment from Senator John Kerry — Report Stresses Need for Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, also released a statement following the FTC’s press conference.

Senator Kerry is the author of bipartisan internet privacy legislation in the Senate along with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“Today’s report from the FTC again underscores the need for action from Congress,” said Sen. Kerry.  “Senator McCain and I introduced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to put Americans in control of their information.  This report again affirms the value of setting a national standard for the collection, use, and distribution of personal information.  This discussion is taking place at home and abroad, and we’d be wise to act now rather than defer decisions until future Congresses.”

Last week, Senator Kerry renewed his call for a Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights in a guest blog post for the website ThinkProgress.