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Federal Trade Commission explores new privacy regulations

Over the last four months, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a series of day long roundtable meetings to examine the privacy challenges created by new technology. The FTC’s goal of the discussions was to determine how best to protect consumer privacy while supporting the beneficial uses of information and technological innovation.

The roundtable meetings covered a wide array of topics, from social networking to online advertising and mobile marketing, and brought together representatives from business, academics and consumer groups. Rick Erwin, President of Data Services for Experian Marketing Services participated in one roundtable by describing the practices of data brokers and the regulations surrounding the use of consumer information. For many in attendance there was no little knowledge, and much misinformation, about the role data brokers play to prevent fraud and facilitate consumer convenience and customer relationship.  As a result, some argued for broad regulations to apply to data brokers.  In remarks before FTC staff, representatives from consumer groups argued for new regulations that provide for access to data and generally new restrictions on how data is used. For example, some consumer and privacy activist are seeking to designate Internet Protocol addresses as personally identifiable, which might allow consumers a choice in how online information is collected and shared with third parties. As for the FTC, a common theme from staff was a concern about a gap between what consumers know and assume, and what actually happens with their data.

The FTC is now working on a report that will outline the issues and concerns raised during the series. In releasing the report, the Commission is expected to make a number of recommendations to improve industry practices.  For now, the shape of those recommendations is unclear, but pressure on industry to improve consumer privacy safeguards is certain to broaden. Experian continues to educate policy makers at all levels of government about the importance of preserving certain fraud prevention practices.


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