And now for something completely different

Share This Page

Take out your mobile device where you input all that personal information and make note of three upcoming FTC events where the topic of conversation will be, well, the collection and use of all that personal information.  But this time we're switching things up a bit.  The FTC's Spring Privacy Series will consist of three two-hour seminars focused on emerging issues that consumers, industry groups, consumer advocates, and academics are starting to talk about.

The first event – Mobile Device Tracking – will explore developing technologies that allow retailers and others to track people’s movements throughout and around stores and other places via signals given off by their mobile devices.  Here are just some of the topics we’ll touch on:

  • What kinds of mobile device tracking are companies using now?  What’s the future look like?
  • Mobile device tracking vs. online tracking:  Compare and contrast.
  • How anonymous is the tracking?  What are the privacy and security risks?  What choices do consumers have?
  • When designing and using technologies like this, how can companies implement the principles of privacy by design, simplified consumer choice, and increased transparency?

The Mobile Device Tracking seminar is set for February 19, 2014, from 10:00 to noon at the FTC’s Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., in Washington, DC.

Next on the list:  a seminar on Alternative Scoring Products.  These days, data brokers offer scores that predict trends or consumer behavior.  Businesses, in turn, may use those predictive scores for things ranging from identity verification and fraud prevention to marketing and advertising.  Consumers are pretty much unaware of what’s going on and have little or no access to the underlying data.  But those scores can have a big impact on the offers people may get from a company or even whether an inquiry from them will get bucked to a higher-ranking customer service rep.  Among the questions to be mulled over:

  • What kinds of predictive scores are on the market now, how are companies using them, and what’s in the pipeline?
  • How accurate are the scores and the underlying information?
  • What are the privacy implications?
  • Should some of these scores be considered eligibility determinations that kick in Fair Credit Reporting Act considerations?

The Alternative Scoring Products seminar is scheduled for March 19, 2014, from 10:00 to noon, also at the FTC’s Conference Center in DC.

The date and location of the third seminar is still TBA, but the topic – Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data – is sure to get people thinking.  [UPDATE:  The event is now scheduled for May 7, 2014.]  Consumers are taking a more active role in researching health issues and using technology to monitor their condition.  For example, some people upload their health information into apps that let them manage and analyze data.  Some of those apps go a step further and transmit that info to others.  For sure, there are benefits when consumers take an active role, but what needs to be done to keep health-related data secure?  The seminar will consider questions like:

  • What types of sites and services are out there and how are consumers using them?
  • What kind of privacy and security protections do consumers expect?  Are companies living up to those expectations?
  • Do consumers differentiate between these businesses and traditional health care companies more likely to be covered by HIPAA?
  • What restrictions (if any) do ad networks and others impose on tracking of health data?

The FTC wants to hear what you have to say about these topics.  Consider filing a public comment online by the deadlines.



Do you have any seminars in Portland, OR or on-line? Please advise. Donna Ragan
Many FTC seminars are webcast, so you can watch online. Just visit on the morning of the event for the link.

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.