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The Rundown: The FTC begins its fact-finding process for potential data privacy rules using its first public forum

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday began the next phase in its procedure for gathering information that will assist inform whether to propose new privacy regulations for how companies can collect, use and share consumer data for business purposes.

Through the federal agencys first public hearing linked to commercial surveillance and data security, experts and members of the general public addressed concerns about data privacy while also suggesting where they thought regulation could possibly be used and the potential impacts on businesses and consumers.

The forum which follows the FTCs Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published last month is section of an extended process the FTC will have to abide by before approving any potential rules. By gathering information, the agency is requesting public input on a large number of questions to see any potential new data privacy rules whether or not a fresh national law is passed.

In addition, it comes as U.S. lawmakers consider federal legislation around data privacy even while the FTC flexes its muscles through ongoing and settled lawsuits. (The other day, the agency sued the Idaho-based data broker Kochava over its geo-location practices.)

Consumer privacy concerns

Consumer and skillfully developed expressed concerns about how exactly data can be used to discriminate against consumers predicated on race, income, gender, age along with other personal information. In accordance with consumer advocates, which could affect how folks are approved for from mortgages and bank cards to how they are able to compete for jobs. Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, cited a June settlement between Meta and the U.S. Justice Department in regards to a housing discrimination case.

Ads for occupations could be steered toward male users and from women, Overton said. Ads for new housing could be steered toward white users, and from Black and Latin X users.

New privacy laws are essential to handle newer formats like email and online search said Caitriona Fitzgerald, deputy director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who said Googles usage of tracking email and search history for ad-targeting will be illegal if put on older communication formats like mail and calls. Karen Kornbluh, director of Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said the overturning of Roe v. Wade clarified for most how vulnerable online activities render their private lives after recent revelations of how tech can track and identify individuals who do some searching online for and visit abortion clinics. Kornbluh a former U.S. ambassador also remarked that theres also a national security loophole without laws banning foreign governments from buying sensitive data about American consumers.

The existing consent framework is insufficient, Kornbluh said. The firms that people as users cope with online have an asymmetry of information, yet no obligation doctors or lawyers which have strong professional ethical constraints and legal obligations to do something in the users interests with the extensive profiles they will have.

Although retailers use data to keep up relationships with consumers and compete within their industry, Paul Martino, vp and senior policy counsel for the National Retail Foundation, said maintaining the brands reputation gives them the incentive to possess stronger data practices set up. However, he said third-party data brokers which are less known by consumers could be a much greater risk because consumers dont know very well what to expect from their website or what data they will have usage of.

Third-party businesses lack the incentives of customer serving businesses to utilize data responsibly and in alignment with consumers interest because they’re not in search of long-term customer relationships with the consumers whose data they collect and process, he said.

How exactly to improve data privacy

Panelists also made several ideas for what theyve seen companies and laws address for responsibly using data. For instance, Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, said new state laws giving consumers methods to notify businesses of these privacy preferences are a good idea. But Martino cautioned that making regulations too broad may possibly also block data-driven relationships with companies that consumers could actually want.

Rebecca Finlay, CEO of Partnership on AI, said companies that induce processes for documenting data collection and usage such as for example for machine learning might help gauge the impact systems have. In accordance with Finlay, that creates a foundation for accountability and transparency outside and inside of the business.

This is simply not just about developing a checklist of characteristics, as well as potential type of mathematical or technical models, she said. That is really about creating management systems and processes that stretch from the look, development and deployment of the device learning system being considered.

And there must be financial penalties for companies that break the guidelines, said Marshall Erwin, chief security officer at Mozilla, adding that its fundamentally what moves the needle in a meaningful way. However, requiring everyone to play by exactly the same rules can be key, in accordance with Kint, who added that companies with dominance should stick to even higher standards.

The digital ad market is really a little bit such as a water balloon, Kint said. If anybody actor a retail site or publisher moves forward with an increased degree of standard, the advertising market will just shift to where they are able to find those users and target them.

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