The FTC and Consumer Privacy – and a simple solution
The FTC has been testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about FTC efforts to protect consumer privacy. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the FTC has done a better job on consumer privacy than most of its counterparts – especially, shall we say, the ICO here in the UK.
The testimony also described the FTC’s recent initiative to take a fresh look at consumer privacy protection in light of new technologies and business models. The testimony noted that the FTC’s reassessment of privacy, through a series of roundtables, highlighted issues in three areas – integrating privacy into everyday business practices, simplifying consumer choices about commercial data practices, and increasing transparency of those practices. The Commission plans to release a report on this initiative later this year.
The bit that I never quite get about consumers’ privacy is, well, what’s the difficulty? If the information collected is always stated, if the use of that information is detailed, and if acceptance of this arrangement is confirmed by the user’s explicit opt-in, then where is the problem? It’s a simple agreement. An informed contract between the user and the collector. Problem solved. Simples.
Of course it does require one other aspect. If the data collector breaks the agreement – takes more than agreed or does other than what is agreed, then the law needs to come down on that collector like a ton of bricks. Not so simples. Governments don’t like upsetting business – and the bigger the business, the less it likes it.