Following a four-year term as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Jon Leibowitz will step down from his role on February 15, 2013.  In a statement released by the agency, Leibowitz stated that “I have been honored to head this extraordinary, bipartisan Commission and to work alongside the best staff in federal government,” and

Earlier today, members of Congress and regulators gathered for a symposium on “The Impact of Media on the Health & Well-Being of Children.”   Participants included Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Leibowitz, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, and Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission, as well as researchers and members of the public interest community.  In response to a question, Chairman Leibowitz informed the audience that the FTC expects to issue a revised Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule by “the end of the year and hopefully sooner.” 

During their remarks, Congressmen Markey and Wasserman Shultz each expressed support for the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011 (H.R. 1895), which we have blogged about here.  The bill would expand privacy protections for minors under the age of 18, including a prohibition on the use of personal information for targeted marketing to minors and a requirement that website operators provide “eraser buttons” to enable the deletion of personal information shared publicly by minors.  Senator Blumenthal also indicated that he was supportive of the legislative proposal, which he described as “common sensical,” although he stated that there likely would be substantial concern among advertisers and other stakeholders about implementation issues.Continue Reading Members of Congress Examine Impact of Media and Marketing On Children

Over the past few weeks, online publishers have seen regulators’ focus on privacy in the social media context reach the boiling point.  Just this week, Politico reported that FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz confirmed in a letter to Sen. Mark Pryor that “FTC staff are carefully monitoring the privacy and security issues associated with social networking sites.”  Sen. Pryor, who chairs the Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, had expressed concern about privacy and security issues in the context of social media apps, and so we expect that social media privacy issues will play a key role in forthcoming online privacy legislation.  (We’ve posted Sen. Pryor’s letter to Leibowitz here.)

The announcement of the FTC’s focus on social networking comes on the heels of the FTC’s highly publicized settlement with Google over its Buzz product, which Erin Egan reported on earlier this year and was just approved by the court last weekAccording to FTC blogger Lesley Fair, the agency alleged that consumers “weren’t adequately informed that certain information that had been private — including the people they chatted with or emailed most often — would be shared publicly by default.”

For other online publishers, the headline from the Google Buzz settlement is the requirement that Google implement a comprehensive “privacy by design” program across all of its products.  In a recent speech, FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Chief David Vladick pointed to this aspect of the Google settlement as a key shift in the agency’s expectations for social media providers generally.  In fact, the FTC has announced that it wants the privacy by design provisions of the Google settlement to “serve as a guide to industry.”  Privacy by design programs, it said, are a “good idea for all companies” and should be “flexible and scalable.”Continue Reading Regulators Take Aim at Social Networking Privacy