CDD Memo to President-elect Obama’s FTC Transition team

My organization provided the FTC-transition team of President-elect Obama a brief memo on what the agency should do as it changes leadership. With a new majority, the FTC should be in the forefront of addressing how the financial and marketing system has evolved in ways which threaten our fiscal well-being and privacy, among many other concerns.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Federal Trade Commission has a potentially extraordinary role to play in the new Administration.  The agency should be engaged in developing and promoting policies that protect privacy, ensure consumer welfare, and stimulate economic development.  Unfortunately, in recent years the commission has largely failed to comprehend the threats to consumer privacy arising from the data collection-based online marketing system.  It ignored, for example, the role that data collection and behavioral targeting played in the marketing of subprime loans and other consumer financial products…
Under new leadership, the FTC should view its role as a champion of consumers…. in consumer protection, privacy, and online-related competition policy, the agency has failed to conduct the kind of serious inquiry that would enable it to make sophisticated recommendations or decisions.  It has not developed a 21st century framework that will protect consumers in the digital marketing “ecosystem.”  We saw this with behavioral advertising and privacy policy, protecting children and youth from marketing linked to the obesity crisis, and in the approval of the Google and DoubleClick merger, for example.
If the FTC is to help the country move forward during this crucial period of economic transition, it should:
•    Make Consumer Protection its highest priority
•    Recruit new staff for consumer protection with a background and commitment to consumer interests
•    Engage in a serious and ongoing analysis of the digital marketplace, with a focus on the impact of interactive advertising/behavioral targeting on financial products, health and medical services, product purchasing, and children and adolescents
•    Propose new policies to protect consumer privacy and welfare online…
•    Work with the FCC and state authorities to create a new Mobile Marketing, Consumer Protection, and Privacy Task Force (with annual reports to the public, and, where appropriate, new legislation recommended to Congress).

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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