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FTC Unveils Agenda for 2014

12 Mar, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez unveiled five areas the commission will be working on in 2014 at a privacy summit last week. 

  • Data Brokers – The FTC will release its report on the data-broker industry. Ramirez said it's important to ensure consumers maintain control over their personal data, much of which is stored in data brokers' vaults, sold and shared.
  • Data Security – The FTC wants better – or at least more standardized – security tools to prevent breaches. In particular, the FTC wants federal data-security legislation enacted, said Ramirez. "But we haven't seen any action by Congress," she added, suggesting Target's recent data breach could be an impetus for legislation. Industry groups, including the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), last month backed a call by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a national data-security law.
  • Data Sharing Across Borders – Ramirez announced a tool to help businesses ensure compliance with global data-privacy rules. The initiative reflects what appears to be a stronger commitment to uphold the U.S. end of the Safe Harbor deal, in place since 2000, and enables more than 3,000 companies to satisfy European Union privacy regulations in exchange for self-certifying that they abide by certain rules. "We are engaged in what I believe is a really fruitful dialogue" with the EU, she said.
  • De-identification – The FTC will begin developing guidelines for data de-identification – stripping personally identifiable information from consumer data. There are no industry standards for de-identification. "I don't believe that de-identification is a cure-all; it's not a panacea, but I do believe it is a potentially powerful tool that can be used and ought to be used," Ramirez said.
  • Mobile Location Tracking – The FTC is planning multiple reports to help protect consumer data. Another on mobile-device-location tracking by brick-and-mortar retailers will be fueled by work conducted in the commission's mobile lab, a testing area for mobile devices and applications. Researchers in the lab are "trying to replicate the experiences of everyday consumers," said Ramirez. "We use it as part of our investigative tools."

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