“Don’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep” is an admonishment received by every child and delivered by every parent. This pithy maxim is equally applicable to consent orders entered into with regulatory authorities. Indeed, Upromise’s failure to abide by it is costing the company $500,000 in the form of a civil penalty from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Continue Reading More Broken Privacy Promises from Upromise: Key Takeaways From Upromise’s Latest Settlement with the FTC

Written by Jake Romero

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the most remarkable aspect of Upromise, an online college savings program, was not how much its users saved.  Rather, it was how much they were giving away.  The FTC has announced settlement regarding a complaint it had filed against Upromise, Inc. alleging that the corporation has violated the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”).   We have an analysis of the complaint and consent order and some key takeaways for businesses.

Upromise and the “TurboSaver Toolbar”

Since 2005, Upromise has operated a membership reward service that is designed to help its users create a savings account for future college tuition payments.  Its users receive discounts and rebates on products they purchase from Upromise’s merchant and retail partners and the value of those discounts and rebates is then collected in a college savings account.  As part of its service, Upromise offered its users the Upromise “TurboSaver Toolbar,” a software download which according to Upromise, would, among other things, highlight and identify Upromise partner companies in such user’s internet search results so that such users could more easily purchase products that would benefit his or her Upromise college savings account.  Downloading the TurboSaver Toolbar may be considered a default setting for individuals signing up for an account, because the box to elect to receive the download would initially be checked for the user.  In addition, an option modifying the TurboSaver Toolbar (described as “Enable Personalized Offers”) was also made available.  The description of this feature provided that “[b]y enabling the Personalized Offers feature, information about the web sites you visit will be collected.  This information is used to provide college savings opportunities tailored to you.”  The description further provided that the TurboSaver Toolbar would help to ensure that the user received college savings when he or she shopped online. 

UPDATE   Upromise provided the following comment on January 20: 

The TurboSaver toolbar always has been, and is, a completely optional part of opening a Upromise account and becoming a Upromise member.  It is important to note that two years ago, we addressed this issue with the vendor’s software promptly after being made aware of it.  Further, only a subset of the approximately 1% of our members, those who had TurboSaver installed on their computer and had the personalized offers enabled, could potentially have been affected.

Continue Reading Broken Privacy Promises from Upromise? FTC Settlement and Key Takeaways (Update)