FTC Blogs

Enhancing permissions through contextual integrity

This is the third post in my series on privacy and security in mobile computing, which builds on the Commission’s 2013 mobile security workshop. In my last post, I concluded that – despite a history of usability concerns – permissions in mobile operating systems are clearly an improvement over the opacity of traditional operating systems.

3 dos, 3 don’ts, and 1 don’t-even-think-about-it

It’s a text that would make most people take notice: ALERT ALERT ALERT .. YOUR PAYMENT WAS DECLINED DUE TO AN INSUFFICIENT ACH TRANSACTION…CALL 866.597.3075. But it wasn’t really an alert. There wasn’t a declined payment. And an “insufficient ACH transaction” isn’t even a real thing.

It was a deceptive text message sent by debt collectors to illegally lure purported debtors into contacting them.

Sharing thoughts about the sharing economy

These days, the sharing economy is all around us. One person might use her smartphone to get an Uber ride to a dinner arranged through Feastly. Another might hire a Taskrabbit to clean up his garden for spring and order custom pots for his flowers from a seller on Etsy. But do these new services come with risks to competition and consumers? And how should regulations governing traditional suppliers be tailored to apply to them?

If the FTC comes to call

It’s a question we’re asked a lot. “What happens if I’m the target of an FTC investigation involving data security?” We understand – no one wants to get that call. But we hope we can shed some light on what a company can expect.

First things first. All of our investigations are nonpublic. That means we can’t disclose whether anyone is the subject of an investigation. The sources of a data security investigation can be news reports, complaints from consumers or other companies, requests from Congress or other government agencies, or our own initiative.

Sham charity operators turn the Big C into a Big Con

If you know someone with cancer, you may have considered donating to a cancer-related charity. Many legitimate charities use donations to find treatments and cures. Some support patients and families. But there also are bogus charities that lie, exploit your generosity, and use donations to help their managers, their friends, and their families, not the causes described to donors.

From the antitrust mailbag: What can the FTC do about prescription drug price spikes?

Consumers frequently contact the Bureau of Competition to alert us that the cost of a prescription drug suddenly spiked up, and ask if the FTC can take antitrust action to bring the price back down. The answer in a nutshell is that it depends on the reason for the price change.

FTC to wipes maker: Back up your claims, not buyers’ pipes

A royal flush? More like a royal pain for consumers who trusted claims that moist flushable wipes manufactured by trade supplier Nice-Pak were safe for home plumbing systems. According to an FTC complaint, the wipes were made of a non-woven fabric that didn’t break down as quickly and easily as advertised, rendering that “flushable” claim a pipe dream – or maybe a pipe nightmare if your sewer or septic system got clogged as a result.

Privacy promises and bankruptcy: The latest letter

In the immortal words of renowned legal scholar Yogi Berra, it’s “déjà vu all over again.” A national company is in bankruptcy court and an issue has arisen regarding the possible sale of consumers’ personal information, at least some of which was collected with the express promise, “We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time.”

Wipes in pipes cause clogs and gripes

For most people, plumbing problems rank right up there with root canals on the list of “experiences to avoid.” We’re careful about what we flush. We may rely on ads or product labels for information about what’s safe to put in the system, so it’s important those are accurate. According to the FTC, Nice-Pak Products lacked proof to support its claims that its wipes were safe for sewer and septic systems. Under a proposed settlement, the company can’t say the wipes are safe to flush unless it has new tests proving they are.