FTC looking at rules to corral tech firms’ data collection, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

FTC looking at rules to corral tech firms’ data collection, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

August 12, 2022 Off By administrator
Lina Khan (file image)

Whether it’s the fitness tracker on your wrist, the “smart” home appliances in your house or the latest kids’ fad going viral in online videos, they all produce a trove of personal data for big tech companies.

How that data is being used and protected has led to growing public concern and officials’ outrage. And now federal regulators are looking at drafting rules to crack down on what they call harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the initiative Thursday, seeking public comment on the effects of companies’ data collection and the potential benefit of new rules to protect consumers’ privacy.

The FTC defines commercial surveillance as “the business of collecting, analyzing and profiting from information about people.”

In Congress, bipartisan condemnation of the data power of Meta – the parent of Facebook and Instagram – Google and other tech giants that have earned riches by aggregating consumer information used by online advertisers, has brought national data privacy legislation to its closest point ever to passage.

Around the country, parents’ concern has deepened over the impact of social media on children. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist, stunned Congress and the public last fall when she exposed internal company research showing apparent serious harm to some teens from Instagram. Those revelations were followed by senators grilling executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety in the wake of suicides and other harms to teens attributed by their parents to their usage of the platforms.

As concerns rise, social media platforms from Snapchat to TikTok to Instagram are adding new features they say will make their services safer and more age appropriate. But the changes rarely address the algorithms pushing endless content that can drag anyone, not just teens, into harmful rabbit holes.

The Democratic members of the FTC said Thursday it’s imperative for Congress to pass a new law, but that the agency was taking action in the meantime by issuing the notice of proposed rules.

“Mass surveillance has heightened the risks and stakes of data breaches, deception, manipulation and other abuses,” the FTC said..

Agency officials noted that the FTC has brought hundreds of enforcement actions against companies over the last two decades for violations of privacy and data security. They included cases involving the sharing of health-related data with third parties, the collection and sharing of sensitive TV viewing data for targeted advertising, and failure to put in adequate security measures to protect sensitive data such as Social Security numbers.

However, the officials said, the FTC’s ability to deter illegal conduct is limited because it generally lacks authority to seek financial penalties for initial violations of law. That could change if the comprehensive privacy legislation were to clear Congress….

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