Feeds

FTC calls for Congress to crack down on consumer data harvesting

Commission says measures needed to rein in brokers

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is calling for stricter regulations on companies that gather and sell personal information.

The FTC said in a recent report (PDF) that it believes Congress should look to enact a new set of laws that will allow consumers to control when and how their personal information gets used for applications such as targeted advertising and market analysis.

The aim of the report, released Tuesday by the commission, is to provide the public with a clearer picture on how "data broker" firms operate. Collecting public information such as voting records, finance information, or purchase and browsing histories, the specialized firms seek to pool data in specific areas, then combine findings with those of other firms to create a larger picture of how people act both online and offline.

While many data brokers put their findings to use in marketing and market analysis campaigns, other records are used for more benign applications such as identity verification and fraud protections.

The primary concerns, according to the FTC, lie in how these data brokers go about collecting data and to what extent they allow users to see where and how information is collected and stored.

In its study, the commission noted that many of the data brokers it studied were not giving users a clear picture of just what information they were gathering and how it would be put to use.

"Data brokers acquire a vast array of detailed and specific information about consumers; analyze it to make inferences about consumers, some of which may be considered quite sensitive; and share the information with clients in a range of industries," the FTC said.

"Much of this activity takes place without consumers' knowledge."

To address the issue, the FTC recommends that Congress consider new legislation that would aim to provide clear rules and regulations on data collection, storage, and transparency. The proposed rules would include requirements that brokers allow users to view and opt out of their data collection programs. Other proposals include requirements that brokers explain how data is analysed and what assumptions are made (such as medical conditions) by analysis tools.

The Commission also suggests that brokers themselves should consider settling on a series of best practices to help individual firms craft policies for data collection, retention, and transparency.

"As part of privacy by design, data brokers should strive to assess their collection practices and, to the extent practical, collect only the data they need and properly dispose of the data as it becomes less useful," the FTC wrote.

"This is particularly important in light of companies' increased ability to collect, aggregate, and match consumer data and to develop secondary uses for the data in ways that consumers could never have contemplated when they provided the information." ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.