Brill

It’s shaping up to be a big data weekend, for those of us who try to find some interesting weekend reading away from the crush of the day-to-day schedule.  If you’re thinking about Monday’s FTC workshop on the impact of big-data analytics on vulnerable communities, a bit of weekend reading about the intersection between technology

As we have previously reported, in less than two weeks the FTC will host its anticipated workshop on big data and discrimination.  Today the FTC announced a full agenda and panelists for the September 15th event, “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which will take place in Washington, D.C., at the Constitution Center.  The workshop is open to the public, and registration begins at 8 a.m.  The following provides a full schedule of speakers and panels.
Continue Reading Schedule of Panelists for FTC’s Upcoming Big Data & Discrimination Workshop

Updated on October 1, 2012 to add information about Chairman Leibowitz’s response to the nine Representatives’ letter. 

As we previously noted, in March of this year the Federal Trade Commission called for the implementation of a Do Not Track (DNT) system that allows consumers to opt out of the collection of all online behavioral data other than data needed for certain limited purposes, such as preventing fraud.  Much of the debate over DNT has been taking place within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which has been convening talks to develop a standard for what it means to honor a consumer’s DNT preference. 

According to media reports, advocacy groups are now asking the FTC to become more actively involved in the W3C discussions.  In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, “The W3C talks have reached a point where a clear statement from the FTC will play a decisive role in reaching consensus.”  The organizations want the FTC to support a proposal that would permit the collection of analytics information only if the data cannot be linked to specific users or devices, as well as a proposal that websites should honor DNT irrespective of whether the DNT setting is turned on by default — an issue we blogged about here

Meanwhile, nine House members have reportedly written to the FTC to raise concerns about the agency’s role in the W3C process.  The lawmakers questioned whether the FTC and W3C have adequately considered DNT’s potential effect on third-party advertising networks and publishers.  The members also requested information about the agency’s authority to participate in the W3C discussions, studies the agency considered before advocating for DNT, and other information.  Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) today sent a separate letter to Chairman Leibowitz, asking for similar information and criticizing the FTC for “acting outside the scope of Congressional intent” by seeking to create government policy in an area reserved for Congress.

Edit:  Chairman Leibowitz responded to the Representatives’ letter by emphasizing that the FTC’s role in W3C “in no way usurps the legislative process or imposes a burden on industry” because any DNT standard adopted by the W3C would be self-regulatory and voluntary.  The nine House members’ letter is available here, and Chairman Leibowitz’s response is available here.Continue Reading FTC’s Role in “Do Not Track” Discussions Under Debate

Speaking at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Toronto, Commissioner Brill informed the audience that “We will soon be seeing some enforcement actions on [mobile] apps.”  Commissioner Brill emphasized that Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices, applies to mobile applications and criticized many app developers for

We have previously reported on the Federal Trade Commission’s December 2010 preliminary staff report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy In An Era of Rapid Change.”  With the February 18, 2011 extended deadline to comment on the report quickly approaching, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology held a roundtable on Browser Privacy Mechanisms last week. 

Participants included spokespersons from the FTC, privacy groups such as the Center for Democracy & Technology and Electronic Frontier Foundation, representatives from Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla, and leading academics and technologists.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill noted that although most of the buzz around the preliminary staff report has focused on Do Not Track, the report has three principle components—Privacy By Design, Choice, and Transparency.  She commented that although industry has been slow to deal with these issues in the past, the response this time appears to be much stronger and more focused.  As of the roundtable, the FTC already had received more than 200 comments and expects the Commission’s server to be tested by the volume of comments anticipated on the deadline. 

Brill also outlined the five components by which FTC will judge a choice mechanism offered to consumers (whether through a self-regulatory mechanism or congressional action).Continue Reading Roundtable, Commissioner Brill Discuss Preliminary FTC Staff Report