As the FTC continues to explore the Internet of Things (“IoT”) and IoT devices, today the agency announced that it will host a workshop in November on the topic of cross-device tracking.  Recognizing that today’s typical consumer daily uses a variety of connected devices while simultaneously interacting with numerous platforms, software applications, service providers, and publishers, the FTC wishes to address the challenges for marketers and consumers presented by this proliferation of new technologies.

Specifically, the FTC has noted of particular concern that traditional tracking methods like cookies have been replaced by new technologies built to operate across a multi-device and multi-platform digital landscape.  Cookies allow companies to track consumers’ online activities for targeted advertising while providing consumers choice over their privacy preferences.  The FTC worries, however, that new cross-device tracking methods, such as “deterministic” and “probabilistic” tracking, operate invisibly and do not provide the same type of transparency and consumer control.

The workshop, which will take place on November 16 at the FTC’s Constitution Center offices in DC, seeks both to address these types of privacy and security challenges and to explore the potential benefits to consumers of effective cross-device tracking.  The workshop will host different stakeholders and intends to cover a variety of topics, including the following issues:

  • What are the different types of cross device tracking, how do they work, and what are they used for?
  • What types of information and benefits do companies gain from using these technologies?
  • What benefits do consumers derive from the use of these technologies?
  • What are the privacy and security risks associated with the use of these technologies?
  • How can companies make their tracking more transparent and give consumers greater control over it?
  • Do current industry self-regulatory programs apply to different cross device tracking techniques?

Public comment on the above questions can be submitted here, and the deadline to submit comments prior to the workshop is October 16.  Keep an eye out on the blog for updates about the workshop.