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.
The World Privacy Forum filed comments on the US Department of Commerce Green Paper today and urged the department to adopt a fair stakeholder input process that included consumers in a robust and meaningful way. WPF outlined seven specific steps for the department to take to ensure a fair process.
Health privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed comments today about how medical records and other health information is intersecting with online advertising and online activities. The WPF comments were filed with the Department of Health and Human Services in response to its request for comments on personal health records, privacy, and social media.