FTC Public Hearing Presenters Forecast Privacy Concerns For the Next 10 Years

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public hearing Nov. 6-8 at George Washington University to discuss the ways in which technological and business developments will impact consumers’ experiences in the next 10 years.

The meetings over those three days looked quite interesting, but the ones I want to highlight here are those that addressed the privacy challenges and issues that businesses need to address.
Fred H. Cate from Indiana University School of Law provided an interesting presentation on “Security and Privacy Challenges in the Coming Tech-ade.” These talking point slides provide some good issues for organizations to consider.
Chris Hoofnagle from U.C. Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law also provided what looked like an interesting discussion on “Consumers and Privacy in the Coming Decade.” Again, talking point slides, but the points themselves provide some food for thought. It is too bad most of the statistics provided are dated (1 – 4 years old); the privacy posture changes constantly, and there have certainly been great changes in the past several months.
DMNews covered the event and provided some event quotes along with their perspective of the information that you can’t find in the provided presentations; namely within the roundtable discussions. A couple of excerpts:

“But Marcia Hoffmann, staff attorney for The Electronic Frontier Foundation, said it is inevitable that as more data are collected about consumers by advertisers, marketers will benefit and there will be fewer market incentives to protect the privacy of consumers. “

Marketers have generally been trying to use consumer data in as many ways as possible to promote their existing, new and planned products ever since marketing has existed. The incentives referenced must not only include consistently applied sanctions by the regulatory oversight agencies, but also loud feedback, complaints, and if necessary, legal actions by
consumers. Datamining efforts with aggregated consumer data, which includes for marketing purposes, are becoming quite sophisticated, but I have yet to see many significant or effective demonstrated security controls within such systems.
The quote from the FTC representative is one that organizations should take note of:

“FTC commissioner J. Thomas Rosch spoke on the panel via a video feed. He expressed concern about consumer privacy and data security given the new technologies available to them.
“Things like chat rooms, message boards, blogs and social networking sites have all affected the way people communicate with each other and share thoughts,” Mr. Rosch said. “Broadband and high-speed Internet access allow people to share digital photographs and videos to an extent and in ways that were almost unimaginable almost 15 years ago. But these technology advances might come with a price tag: privacy implications and copyright issues, just to name a few.”

Mr. Rosch said the FTC is eyeing these technologies and monitoring companies engaging in things like Internet fraud and deception and privacy and data security, even though this means new challenges for the agency.
“Last but not least, it’s important to realize that these consumer protection issues will be best addressed by self-regulatory initiatives or by private sector initiatives,” he said.”

So be aware that the FTC is:
* Monitoring companies and their privacy practices and will take actions, as they have already been doing for the past few years; perhaps now they plan to do even more; and
* Encouraging visible self regulatory initiatives

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