WPF executive director Pam Dixon testified at a joint subcommittee hearing focused on privacy and the collection and use of online and offline consumer information. Dixon’s testimony focused on the new “modern permanent record” and how it is used and created. Dixon said “The merging of offline and online data is creating highly personalized, granular profiles of consumers that affect consumers’ opportunities in the marketplace and in their lives. Consumers are largely unaware of these profiles and their consequences, and they have insufficient legal rights to change things even if they did know.” The testimony explored concrete examples of problematic consumer profiling activities.
Apple Privacy — Some of Apple’s products, including iOS 4 iPhones and iPads, have been tracking consumers’ detailed location information and storing the data directly on the devices. This raises privacy concerns, as the data on the phones and iPads is unencrypted and may be accessed directly. This tipsheet explains iPhone and iPad iOS4 geolocation privacy issues, including who needs to be most concerned about them, and what to do. Health care providers, overseas human rights workers, members of law enforcement and victims of domestic violence are among those who have special considerations and sensitivities to this privacy issue.
Data Broker Settlement — In April 2009, the World Privacy Forum sent the FTC a complaint regarding a lack of online opt-outs for consumers at some online data broker web sites. Our complaint focused on the difficulties online consumers would have opting out of certain web sites. In our complaint, we noted that online consumers were having difficulties with the opt outs. Today the FTC issued a final decision in this matter, and specifically improved online opt outs for consumers at US Search.
Some of the advertising that is done online comes with hooks. Using a variety of technologies, some largely unseen, online advertisers can track online activities, sometimes in profound ways that consumers are not expecting. Not all online advertising has “hooks” that are problematic or that raise privacy challenges. But a type of advertising called “behaviorally targeted advertising” often does. Behavioral advertising has two key components: tracking and targeting.
Comments on EASA –The World Privacy Forum submitted comments today on the European Advertising Standards Alliance’s Best Practice Recommendation on Online Behavioural Advertising. Our comments focus upon three key areas: First, the EASA recommendation fails to recognize the protection of consumer privacy in Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) as a key policy goal. Second, the recommendation’s protections are narrow, creating illusory protections for user privacy, whether or not they opt out of OBA. Finally, we critique the oversight and compliance mechanisms, which are not likely to foster consumer confidence nor police the industry. Drawing upon the WPF’s 2007 report, The NAI: Failing at Consumer Protection and at Self-Regulation, the comments argue that EASA’s approach suffers from the same weaknesses as self-regulatory approaches deployed in the United States, and that European lawmakers should not replicate the failed American approach. Law students from the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic helped draft the comments as part of an ongoing project on consumer privacy and OBA.