FTC chair suggests nature of “personally identifiable” info is changing

By Erin Ayers on September 14, 2016

FTC Headquarters, Washington DC

A recent speech by Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez offers clues to how the active regulatory agency will view the use of data analytics by businesses and what the future of “privacy” will entail.

“As new technologies and business models continue to emerge, however, we hear with increasing frequency the claim that technological innovation and big data have rendered certain fundamental tenets of privacy, particularly the idea of consumer consent, outdated and ill-suited for today’s digital world. Rather than focus on consent, these big data advocates argue, we should apply use-based approaches that set specified limits on businesses’ ability to use the data they have collected but allow everything else,” said Ramirez at a technology policy forum in Aspen.

I disagree. I believe that the principles of transparency and choice that undergird privacy laws around the world – as well as the approach the FTC advocates – continue to play an important role in protecting consumer privacy. In order to build and sustain trust in the marketplace, consumers should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their personal information. If consumers feel that they have little or no control, there is a risk that they may not embrace the new products and services that companies seek to offer.”

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eayers@advisen.com'

Erin is an editor at Advisen. She has 15 years of journalism experience. Prior to Advisen, Erin covered property-casualty insurance for 13 years as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at eayers@advisen.com.