Annual Highlights 2012-2013

Protecting Consumer Privacy

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Ensuring strong privacy protections is key at the FTC. As the nation’s top cop on the consumer privacy beat, the FTC’s goals are to protect consumer privacy in an evolving market for consumer information, make sure companies keep their privacy promises to consumers, and ensure that consumers have confidence to take advantage of the benefits that a dynamic and ever-changing marketplace offer. The FTC achieves those goals through law enforcement, consumer education, and policy initiatives.

For example, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Wyndham Worldwide Corp., charging that data security failures caused millions of dollars in fraud losses and led to the export of payment card information to an Internet domain in Russia. A settlement with Cbr, Inc., resolved charges that its data security failures compromised credit card and other sensitive consumer health information. Settlements with DesignerWare, LLC, and seven rent-to-own companies resolved charges that they spied on people who rented computers and allegedly tricked them into revealing personal information, without their knowledge or consent. Google agreed to pay $22.5 million for allegedly misrepresenting that it would not place “tracking cookies” or serve targeted ads to users of Apple’s Safari browser, a record penalty for a violation of a prior FTC consent order. Settlements with EquifaxHireRight Solutions, and Spokeo, Inc., resolved allegations that they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which provides protections against inaccuracies in – or impermissible use of – consumer credit reports.

An FTC study of the U.S. credit reporting industry investigated the accuracy and completeness of consumer credit reports, and found that about one in four consumers identified errors on their credit reports that might affect their credit scores. Five percent of consumers identified errors that could lead them to pay more for loans. The FTC also hosted a workshop exploring the practices and privacy implications of comprehensive data collectionabout consumers’ online activities.

Outreach Highlights