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FTC Released Final Privacy Report

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At a press conference today, March 26, 2012, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its final report on protecting consumer privacy, entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change“. 

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz began the press conference quoting former U.S. Supereme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who wrote in dissent in a 1928 wire-tapping case, that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution recognized that the right to be let alone was ”the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.”

The FTC outlined three over-arching principles for protecting consumer privacy at the beginning of the 21st Century:

  1. Privacy by Design. Incoporate privacy in the developmental stages of projects.  This is the “privacy by design” principle the case for which has been convincingly made by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.
  2. Simplified Consumer Choice. Consumers must have simplified choice with respect to how their personal data is used.  The FTC emphasized that non-one has the right to put anything on a consumer’s computer.  The FTC acknowledged the strides being made in Do Not Track initiatives.
  3. Transparency. Data use practices must be transparent. The FTC suggests that privacy disclosures must be less onerous for consumers to navigate and read.

The FTC suggests that legislation may be required to regulate “data brokers”.  Data brokers may be engaged in types of activities that are similar to credit and consumer reporting agencies without coming within existing legislation governing consumer and credit reporting agencies. The FTC has called on data brokers to creating a centralized website where data brokers would “(1) identify themselves to consumers and describe how they collect and use consumer data and (2) detail the access rights and other choices they provide with respect to the consumer data they maintain.”

On the issue of “Do Not Track”, the FTC acknowledged the strides that had been made stated that if “Do Not Track” was not fully operational by the end of 2012, the advertising industry should expect that there would be a “tsunami” of calls for legislation.