To be fair, the FTC gets it
In his opening remarks of the Federal Trade Commission Conference today, Chairman Jon Leibowitz of the FTC acknowledges, “these advances have created extraordinary benefits for consumers but also have tremendous implications for privacy. The computer cost of data collection seems to be approaching zero. Data storage costs are unbelievably low too.” It might also surprise you that he also supports rules for an ‘opt in’ for consumers before data is collected on them, much less shared.
In February, the FTC did issue recommendations on how data should be collected and shared when it comes to new media sites, and extended the recommendations to call carriers as well as internet service providers. In case you haven’t noticed, many cell carriers have even replaced your 404 pages in browsers with their own branded suggested search results, leaving us to wonder what else they’re snooping as you browse the web.
Needless to say, the ultimate concern on the minds of those that attended the FTC conference on Monday was how to treat vulnerable categories of consumers such as children. Other issues of high concern on the mind of Alan Davidson, Google’s Public Policy Director is how unprecedented some data collection is, including where a consumer may be at any given time, leading him to stress, “it’s one of the reasons that we really have to get this right. It’s a very dynamic environment. We have to be careful.”
Leibowitz is on record stating that failure to protect consumer privacy, could result in federal legislation.
Industry needs to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous self-regulation or it will certainly invite legislation by Congress and a more regulatory approach by our Commission. Put simply, this could be the last clear chance to show that self-regulation can – and will – effectively protect consumers’ privacy in a dynamic online marketplace.
For real estate, any mandates passed down by the FTC could directly impact media sites such as Zillow, Trulia, HouseLogic, and even agent/broker websites that collect consumer information, as well as blogging, also being discussed at the conference.