FTC Announces Roundtables on “Evolving Consumer Privacy Issues”

by on September 15, 2009 · 3 comments

FTC buildingThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just announced it will be hosting:

a series of day-long public roundtable discussions to explore the privacy challenges posed by the vast array of 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data.” Such practices include social networking, cloud computing, online behavioral advertising, mobile marketing, and the collection and use of information by retailers, data brokers, third-party applications, and other diverse businesses. The goal of the roundtables is to determine how best to protect consumer privacy while supporting beneficial uses of the information and technological innovation. The roundtable discussions will consider the risks and benefits of information collection and use in online and offline contexts, consumer expectations surrounding various information management practices, and the adequacy of existing legal and self-regulatory regimes to address privacy interests.

The first of these roundtables will be held on December 7, 2009 at the FTC Conference Center in Washington, D.C. Additional information can be found here.

I’m sure my colleague Berin Szoka will have much more to say about this in coming days and weeks — and I very much hope the FTC will invite him in to testify — but, for now, I just want to reiterate the three key challenges we have been posing again and again and again and again in all our work on this subject:

  1. Identify the harm or market failure that requires government intervention.
  2. Prove that there is no less restrictive alternative to regulation.
  3. Explain how the benefits of regulation outweigh its costs.

I hope those issues are front and center at these workshops and we get some firm answers because the dangers of breaking the very few Internet business models that actually work is a very steep price to pay for the conjectural harms bandied about by some privacy zealots.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Yes there is a “less restrictive alternative to regulation”. It's called self-restraint.

    Unfortunately, the concept of “self-restraint” seems to be a dirty word or something to be swept under the rug so that it never sees the light-of-day.

    Don't get me wrong. When you are out in public you should not have an expectation of privacy. When you are on the internet and interacting with webpages you are giving-up a degree of privacy. When you walk around with your cell phone on, you are giving-up your time/position location. I also don't have a problem with targeted advertising. Nevertheless, firms that collect “private” data should have the self-restraint NOT to distribute (broadcast) this information to their partners, their affiliates, the entire world, etc. I reiterate, the way to avoid regulatory oversight is to act responsibly.

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