FTC Releases Proposed Privacy Framework

FTC Releases Much Anticipated Privacy Report, Author to Discuss on CLBR

The report was released this morning and we have not had a chance to review it yet, but the FTC press release indicates that the report expands on a preliminary staff report the FTC issued in December 2010 by calling on companies handling consumer data to implement recommendations for protecting privacy which includes (i) privacy by design; (ii) giving consumers a “simple, easy way . . . to control the tracking of their online activities” and (iii) greater transparency so that consumers can access data collected on them.

Over the course of the next year, Commission staff will work to encourage consumer privacy protections by focusing on five main action items:

Do-Not-Track - The Commission commends the progress made in this area: browser vendors have developed tools to allow consumers to limit data collection about them, the Digital Advertising Alliance has developed its own icon-based system and also committed to honor the browser tools, and the World Wide Web Consortium standards-setting body is developing standards.

Mobile - The FTC urges companies offering mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including disclosures. To that end, it will host a workshop on May 30, 2012 to address how mobile privacy disclosures can be short, effective, and accessible to consumers on small screens.

Data Brokers - The Commission calls on data brokers to make their operations more transparent by creating a centralized website to identify themselves, and to disclose how they collect and use consumer data. In addition, the website should detail the choices that data brokers provide consumers about their own information.

Large Platform Providers - The report cited heightened privacy concerns about the extent to which platforms, such as Internet Service Providers, operating systems, browsers and social media companies, seek to comprehensively track consumers’ online activities. The FTC will host a public workshop in the second half of 2012 to explore issues related to comprehensive tracking.

Promoting Enforceable Self-Regulatory Codes - The FTC will work with the Department of Commerce and industry stakeholders to develop industry-specific codes of conduct. To the extent that strong privacy codes are developed, when companies adhere to these codes, the FTC will take that into account in its law enforcement efforts. If companies do not honor the codes they sign up for, they could be subject to FTC enforcement actions.

The report’s author has tentatively agreed to appear on this week’s Cyber Law and Business Report (Wed @ 10AM PT, 1PM ET) to discuss its recommendations.