The FTC wants to know your thoughts on the collection of personal data in this day and age. This is a great opportunity to get your opinion heard by a very pro-consumer federal agency. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.
The FTC is accepting comments about comprehensive data collection to firstname.lastname@example.org. The agency will accept comments until March 8, 2013.
For more information on the issues, please watch the video (approx. 60min) of a special workshop held by the FTC last December.
Kinda long but an interesting take on your civil liberties.
An important bill is gaining traction in Congress. Although Privacy made significant strides forward with a recent Supreme Court case, the decision didn’t directly address law enforcement getting your cell phone data to track your whereabouts. Currently most state law enforcement can easily get access to your cell phone and mobile device location information without a warrant and without any cause or reason. This bill will specifically make it illegal for law enforcement to get access to your cell tower information. This is definitely a bill to watch. Read the text of the bill here.
In a statement for the record, EPIC has expressed support for H.R. 2168, the “Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act,” which prohibits the interception of location information by private parties and government agents acting without a search warrant.
a Consumer Bill of Rights.
Released earlier this year, the Obama administration feels strongly that your online Privacy is important and should be respected and protected. This is great. The potential abuses of your personal information are too numerous to outline here but rest assured that our President gets it and has taken action.
The 52 page document gets to the point within the first few pages. As a consumer you should be entitled to:
- “Individual Control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.”
For example, you should have the right to contact Facebook and tell them to delete your profile, completely. It’s your data and you own it. Facebook is only borrowing and profiting from it in the meantime, but when you’re done, you should have the right to take your information with you.
- “Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices.”
Companies should tell you exactly what they are doing with your information. It’s not fair that you purchase flowers for Mother’s Day but your email, address and phone number is given to a company that wants to sell you a time share.
- “Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data. “
Again, companies should only use your information in a manner that is consistent with the context in which you supplied the data. So companies shouldn’t ask for your email to send you directions to the mall but then send you a survey about your TV habits. Two different subjects and you didn’t give your email for that purpose. Essentially, companies should respect the context in which you provided your personal information.
- “Security: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.”
Ah, yeah. If you give your social security number to a company, they shouldn’t feel that storing it on a usb drive and leaving it at Starbucks is acceptable. It’s not okay – companies need firewalls, secured servers, policies, intrusion detection, and other reasonable security methods proportionate to the risk to secure your data. For my lawyers…. think TJ Hooper in the 21st century.
- “Access and Accuracy: Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data is inaccurate.”
Yes! Have you ever had a company call you “Mr. Pimple” when your name is “Mr. Peedle?” To top it off, they just refuse to correct their system. This report suggests that you have a right to have digital records accurate, appropriate and updated with correct information.
- “Focused Collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.”
So, let’s say you’re an avid Netflix consumer. Does the company have the right to collect, store and share the name of the movie, the genre and the rating? What about how long the movie was on, who starred in it and what you rated it? What about if they decide to keep your movie watching history on file for 5 years; and record how many times you stopped and started the movie; shared it on Facebook; or how many times you watched it? Get where I’m going? This principle asks companies to put a limit on the amount of information collected, stored and shared; have a legitimate purpose for collecting and sharing the information; and where possible, make the information anonymous. This area will probably be the hardest to keep track of.
- “Accountability: Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.”
Recourse! If a company doesn’t care to do any of the above, the company should be held accountable. There should be consequences for blatant abuses of privacy.
This is exactly what is needed and is definitely a step in the right direction. Although the report calls for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create new law, this report isn’t the law. It is certainly influential but it is not law. We’ll have to wait and see whether the FTC takes the ball and does the right thing. We’ll be watching…