March 27, 2012
Yesterday the FTC released the long-awaited Final Report on privacy entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change.” This report follows on to the FTC Staff Report released in December 2010 on the subject. CCIA filed response comments last year. The new report follows on, to a large degree, with comments that the FTC has been making about consumer privacy for the past few years, reiterating a number of key points, such as support for legislation, privacy by design, and Do Not Track. There are a couple points that are worth highlighting for further study, however.
First, CCIA is happy to note that the FTC continues to see the importance in balancing the important goal of protecting consumer privacy with the equally important goal of maintaining and encouraging an innovative market in online services. The applications and services that users have engaged with to educate, entertain, and communicate are the products of innovative developers and companies, and their features are often only made possible by collecting and analyzing data.
We also agree with the FTC when they raise concerns over what they refer to as “Large Platform Providers” that, due to their position, have access to the entirety of a user’s Internet browsing activities. The FTC gives as an example Internet Service Providers, which is an example that CCIA has often used in the past. The FTC, however, also places operating systems, browsers, and social media platforms, which we view with less suspicion. While technologically those platforms offer the same opportunities as that of an ISP, changing a browser because of a privacy concern is much easier than changing an ISP: There is little to no cost (either monetarily or socially) to doing so, and there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Neither can be said of ISPs. The FTC announced its intention to host a public workshop later in 2012 to explore these issues, and CCIA will follow the discussions closely.