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

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled, “What Information Do Data Brokers Have on Consumers, and How Do They Use It?”   Committee members expressed interest in bringing about greater transparency to what information is collected by data brokers and how it is used at the hearing, which consisted of a single panel of witnesses from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the World Privacy Forum, Experian, and the Direct Marketing Association.

In advance of the hearing, Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) released a majority staff report summarizing the Commerce Committee’s investigation into how data brokers collect, compile, and sell consumer information.  The staff report notes that data brokers serve a beneficial function in enabling companies to provide customers with products and services specific to their interests and needs, but that certain data brokers “operate with minimal transparency” and that consumer profiling can raise “unintended privacy issues.”  For this proposition, the staff report cited media reports that a major retailer had developed a pregnancy prediction model to enable the company to target marketing towards expectant mothers. 

According to the Committee’s staff report, a perceived lack of transparency may present further concerns when data broker information “end[s] up in the hands of predatory businesses seeking to identify vulnerable consumers, or when marketers use consumers’ data to engage in differential pricing.”

Senate Commerce Committee members generally echoed these concerns at yesterday’s hearing.  For example:Continue Reading Senate Panel Examines Data Broker Industry; Releases Staff Report

This is another big week for privacy. On Monday, Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011, which we posted about here. And yesterday, the newly created Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law held its first hearing.  The hearing focused on mobile privacy issues, but also touched on other important privacy-related matters, including reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and data security breaches. The following are highlights from the hearing:

  • Jessica Rich, Deputy Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, testified that the FTC has “a number of active investigations into privacy issues associated with mobile devices, including children’s privacy.”
  • Ms. Rich also noted that the draft Staff Report published by the FTC in December addresses mobile privacy issues in certain respects, including recommending that companies obtain affirmative express consent before collecting or sharing sensitive information such as precise geolocation data. In response to a question from Senator Al Franken, Ms. Rich explained that location data is especially sensitive because it often involves the data of children and teens and, when gathered over time, can be used to determine what church or political meetings a person attends and when and where a child walks to and from school. She also noted stalking concerns. Ms. Rich also expressed concerns that mobile users are even less likely than other online consumers to read detailed privacy screens, given the small screens of most mobile devices, but noted that the FTC Staff Report recommends clearer disclosures and simpler consent mechanisms. With respect to the status of the Staff Report, Ms. Rich’s written remarks indicate that FTC staff is analyzing the comments it received on its draft Staff Report and will take them into consideration in preparing a final report for release later this year.

Continue Reading Mobile Hearing Covers Mobile Privacy, ECPA Reform, and Data Breach Issues