FTC to Refocus Privacy Efforts
So I’ve notice a good deal of discussion here on Agent Genius related to privacy. I thought I’d devote this post to how policymakers in Washington, particularly the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are viewing the topic and how the agency is starting to think about future regulation in the area.
I attended what is to be the first of three privacy workshops held by the FTC on December 7. The workshop brought together FTC staff, academics, consumer advocates and industry representatives to discuss whether new regulations are necessary and if so, what they might look like.
Chairman Jon Leibowitz opened the event by stating that “We are at another watershed moment in privacy, and the time is right for the commission to take a broader look at privacy.” He announced that the FTC “will pay increased attention to online privacy concerns over the next six months.”
What was clear from the workshop is that the FTC is no longer satisfied with the current privacy protection paradigm of notice and choice. In other words, under current law, as long as you disclose your privacy practices in a policy on your website, and stick to them, generally, anything goes.
Consumer Protection Leads FTC’s New Direction
The FTC is headed in a new direction and consumer protection is the name of the game. During the course of the day-long workshop FTC staff repeatedly stated that consumers don’t read or understand privacy policies so new methods of disclosure are needed to ensure that consume privacy is protected.
Commission staff suggested broadening the traditional definition of personally identifiable information or PII. This is the threshold definition for determining which information will be protected. Today it generally consists of names and account numbers. The suggestion was that a new broader definition of PII should include any information that can be aggregated from different sources to identify an individual.
Finally, the Commission identified emerging technologies that will come under increasing scrutiny for privacy related issues in the months and years ahead as cloud computing, mobile or location specific applications and social media networks.
So What Does this Mean for Real Estate Professionals?