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FTC Makes Recommendations for Protecting Consumer Privacy

It is often difficult for consumers to understand and manage the vast amounts of information that is collected and stored when they go online, engage in commerce or even use mobile apps. The storage, sale and transmission of such information, even though it is bought by legitimate companies and advertisers, often leads to data compromises creating identity fraud risks for consumers. But a recent report from the FTC addresses these issues and seeks to better protect consumer privacy.

The FTC report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers, sets best practices for businesses to protect consumers’ privacy while giving greater control over the collection and use of their personal data. These best practice recommendations include greater transparency about what data is collected from consumers while providing access to the data collected from a consumer; giving a simple option for consumers to control the tracking of their activities online including a Do-Not-Track mechanism; and that companies should limit the data they collect and how long they retain it while maintaining reasonable security for protecting this data.

Other important areas the FTC touches on include the privacy as it relates to both mobile device use and data brokers. In the report the FTC urges data brokers to be more transparent in disclosing how they collect and use consumer data while providing consumers detailed information about the choices they have with sharing their own information. With respect to mobile the FTC calls on companies to improve privacy protections and disclosures as many mobile apps can access a consumer’s geolocation, phone contacts and other information. The FTC will additionally host a workshop on May 30, 2012 to discuss privacy disclosures that can be effective and accessible in the mobile channel.

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