Consumer and Privacy Groups at FTC Roundtable to Call for Decisive Agency Action

Washington, DC, December 6, 2009 – On Monday December 7, 2009, consumer representatives and privacy experts speaking at the first of three Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Exploring Privacy Roundtable Series will call on the agency to adopt new policies to protect consumer privacy in today’s digitized world. Consumer and privacy groups, as well as academics and policymakers, have increasingly looked to the FTC to ensure that Americans have control over how their information is collected and used.

The groups have asked the Commission to issue a comprehensive set of Fair Information Principles for the digital era, and to abandon its previous notice and choice model, which is not effective for consumer privacy protection.

Specifically, at the Roundtable on Monday, consumer panelists and privacy experts will call on the FTC to stop relying on industry privacy self-regulation because of its long history of failure. Last September, a number of consumer groups provided Congressional leaders and the FTC a detailed blueprint of pro-active measures designed to protect privacy, available at:

These measures include giving individuals the right to see, have a copy of, and delete any information about them; ensuring that the use of consumer data for any credit, employment, insurance, or governmental purpose or for redlining is prohibited; and ensuring that websites should only initially collect and use data from consumers for a 24-hour period, with the exception of information categorized as sensitive, which should not be collected at all. The groups have also requested that the FTC establish a Do Not Track registry.

Quotes from Monday’s panelists:

Marc Rotenberg, EPIC: “There is an urgent need for the Federal Trade Commission to address the growing threat to consumer privacy.  The Commission must hold accountable those companies that collect and use personal information. Self-regulation has clearly failed.”

Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy: “Consumers increasingly confront a sophisticated and pervasive data collection apparatus that can profile, track and target them online. The Obama FTC must quickly act to protect the privacy of Americans,including information related to their finances, health, and ethnicity.”

Susan Grant, Consumer Federation of America: “It’s time to recognize privacy as a fundamental human right and create a public policy framework that requires that right to be respected,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America. “Rather than stifling innovation, this will spur innovative ways to make the marketplace work better for consumers and businesses.”

Pam Dixon, World Privacy Forum: “Self-regulation of commercial data brokers has been utterly ineffective to protect consumers. It’s not just bad actors who sell personal information ranging from mental health information, medical status, income, religious and ethnic status, and the like. The sale of personal information is a routine business model for many in corporate America, and neither consumers nor policymakers are aware of the amount of trafficking in personal information. It’s time to tame the wild west with laws that incorporate the principles of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to ensure transparency, accountability, and consumer control.”

Written statements and other materials for the roundtable panelists are available at the following links:





Disney’s Bob Iger, Kids and Behavioral Tracking/Targeting: He Claims “Kids don’t care” about their Privacy

My friend the children’s TV activist Peggy Charren, back during the 1970’s and 1980’s, had a favorite expression when it came to dealing with self-serving media moguls who trampled on concerns about kids:  “I’d like to wash your mouth out with soap,” she would exclaim (given her tenacity, they knew she meant business).  Robert Iger, the head of Disney, is quoted in Reuters saying that: “If we could sell your behavior to an advertiser — I am actually pretty bullish about what technology is going to allow in terms of behavioral tracking. I think we are going to have information to sell to marketers.”

Unbelievably, Mr. Iger, when citing concerns over privacy, says that: “Kids don’t care,”…adding that when he talked to his adult children about their online privacy concerns “they can’t figure out what I’m talking about.”

Mr. Iger has just dramatically tarnished the Disney brand, by suggesting that it’s okay to engage in digital marketing and data collection to children and adolescents.  Not only is he thumbing his nose at the bipartisan Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, but the growing concern health, parenting and children’s groups have regarding youth privacy and consumer protection.  Instead of Disney being a youth industry leader when it comes to digital marketing, it appears the company is shirking what its role should be.  Peggy–I hope you still have one of those bars of soap!