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FTC Releases Final Consumer Privacy Recommendations



If you have some free time today, the FTC just released a new 112 page report on marketing and consumer privacy that you might find interesting.

The report title is almost as long as the report. It’s called “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers.” Note the word “proposed.” This report doesn’t establish any new laws, but they are rather firm in their “suggestions.”

Think of it as a parent who “suggests” that a teen be home at a reasonable hour. They might look the other way if the teen come in after midnight once or twice, but if it becomes a habit . . .

Here’s FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in the parent role;

“We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don’t.”

A man who lives by the rule, “speak softly and carry a big stick.” I like that.

The report asks companies to become pro-active in three areas:

Privacy by Design – companies should build in consumers’ privacy protections at every stage in developing their products. These include reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy;

Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers – companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom. This should include a Do-Not-Track mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities.

Greater Transparency – companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers’ information, and provide consumers access to the data collected about them.

The FTC understands the rigors of running a small business, so they’ve included a statement that says the new rules will not apply to “companies that collect and do not transfer only non-sensitive data from fewer than 5,000 consumers a year.”

The commission also recognizes that mobile comes with its own set of privacy issues. They’ll be hosting a workshop in May to help deal with these specific issues.

Overall, there’s nothing we didn’t see coming in this report. It calls for stricter rules governing the collection and use of personal data and clearer options for consumers who want to opt-out.

The rules set forth in this report may not be laws, but they’re certainly headed in that direction. Consumer privacy is something the FTC is taking very seriously, and anyone who deals with data collection should probably take the time to read the full report.

The FTC also started a new technology blog, where they plan to continue discussing the impact of technology on privacy in a way that is “sophisticated enough to be interesting to hard-core techies, but straightforward enough to be accessible to the broad public that knows something about technology but doesn’t qualify as expert.”

Good luck with that.

Do you have any concerns about the new FTC privacy guidelines?