Blog Posts Tagged with Consumer Privacy

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A pain in the privacy

From a patient’s perspective, it was one of those “It seemed like a good idea at the time” innovations: a free online portal that lets people view their billing history with a number of different healthcare providers. But according to the FTC, Atlanta-based PaymentsMD, LLC and former CEO Michael C. Hughes signed consumers up for their service and then went on a medical information scavenger hunt without their permission.

The FTC's TRUSTe case: When seals help seal the deal

People who aren’t into marketing jargon might not know a “credence claim” from a Creedence Clearwater Revival, but experts tell us it’s a representation about a product that consumers aren’t in a position to evaluate for themselves. One example is what websites say about their privacy practices. Because consumers can’t test the accuracy of those claims, they often rely on third-party seals trusted for their expertise and independence.

Today’s the day for Big Data

Big Data is a big deal for businesses, consumers, academics, and policymakers.  There's no doubt it opens the door to more powerful analytical techniques that can advance medical research, education, transportation, etc.  But some have voiced concerns about whether it may be used to categorize consumers in ways that may affect them unfairly, or even unlawfully.  That's the topic on the table at an FTC workshop, Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?, and it's happening today,

Big Data: What’s on the agenda?

Whether it’s advances in medical research, making sure buses are where they need to be during rush hour, or reducing how long consumers are stuck on hold listening to canned music, Big Data promises a lot for the future. But what are the risks it could be used to disadvantage some people?

What’s the Deal? Dealing with shopping apps

Whether by click, tap, swipe, or scan, apps now offer a variety of beneficial services that can enhance consumers’ shopping experience.  These services help consumers compare prices in-store, load the latest deals, and make purchases – all from the convenience of their phone. To better understand the consumer protection implications of this ever-changing environment, FTC staff recently issued a report, What’s the Deal?

The long and short of it

Ahab hunts big fish.
Captain and whaling boat sink.

Ishmael prevails.

Sometimes you want to read all 209,117 words of Moby Dick.  Other times a haiku will do.  Sometimes you want an in-depth analysis of the FTC’s enforcement, rulemaking, research, education, and international efforts related to privacy and data security.  Other times a summary will suffice.

Who’s mining the store? 9 top takeaways, legislative recommendations, and some straight talk for industry from the FTC’s data broker report

Type “big data” into a search engine and you’ll get more than 300 million results.  Consider the amount of personal information actually in the hands of data brokers and add a string of zeroes to that.  There are lots of valid purposes for using that data – verifying identity and detecting fraud, to name just two – but let’s face it:  It’s an industry that operates primarily behind closed doors.  To shed light on what’s going on, the FTC conducted an in-depth study o

Gone with the wind?

A mobile app that lets users send photo and video messages that recipients can look at for a moment before the content is, in effect, gone with the wind?  Scarlett O’Hara could have declared her love for Rhett Butler (or Ashley Wilkes), confident that the message was ephemeral.  Of course, residents of Tara didn’t have access to the popular app Snapchat, which claimed to do just that.  But according to an FTC settlement, the company’s promise that Snapchat me

Checking up on consumer generated health information

Whether it’s a website where people diagnosed with the same medical condition can share their stories or an app to find out how long it will take in the gym to burn off a Macadamia Mania Ripple sundae, consumers are taking their health in their own hands – and generating a massive amount of digital data in the process.  If you or your clients have jumped into this burgeoning market, here’s a development you’ll want to follow.

Big day to talk big data

It’s funny how kids sometimes mishear famous phrases – for example, “And lead us not into Penn Station” or the confused Elton John lyric “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”  We once heard first graders end the Pledge of Allegiance by saying “One nation, individual, with liberty and justice for all.”  On second thought, maybe they were on to something.  Analytics techniques are out there that categorize consumers and make predictions about individual behavior.  For sure, it can offer insights to advance medical research, transportation, manufacturing, etc.  But to what extent can big data

FTC staff to Facebook and WhatsApp: Privacy promises prevail

When one company acquires another, there’s usually a lot of discussion about how to harmonize divergent procedures – everything from personnel policies to buying paper clips.  But a letter to executives at Facebook and WhatsApp from Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, should remind businesses there's one thing that doesn’t change: privacy promises made to customers.

Business execs: 7 things to consider before using that app

Every tech publication seems to have a list of best apps for business.  Whether the goal is to analyze corporate cash flow or avoid the dreaded middle seat that doesn’t recline, there’s an app for the task.  But have you considered the kind of sensitive customer or employee information some apps let you transmit?  Developers may claim to take steps to secure the data, but as the FTC’s proposed settlements with Fandango and Credit Karma demonstrate,

What’s a predictive score?

Most consumers know that creditors use information about them and their credit experiences – like the number and type of accounts they have, their bill paying history, and whether they pay their bills on time – to create a credit score, which helps predict how creditworthy they are.

The best 30-second investment you’ll make all day

Familiar with Fantage?  If you have kids, they probably are.  It’s a MMORPG – a massively multiplayer online role-playing game – where millions of children customize avatars to play online games in a virtual world.  According to the FTC, there are a few more initials this MMORPG will want to be mindful of in the future:  the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.

What’s this “mall tracking” I’ve been hearing about?

Consumers may not know it, but there are technologies out there that let retailers and others track their movements within and around stores and other attractions through their mobile devices.  Businesses can use the information to identify trends in consumer behavior, plan sales and promotions, and more efficiently staff their stores and structure check-out (although no matter how sophisticated the technology, we always manage to choose the slow-moving line).

50th data security settlement offers golden opportunity to check your practices

Imagine doing a routine online search and having the search engine serve up files that include medical histories, notes from psychiatric sessions and children’s medical exams, sensitive information about drug abuse or pregnancy loss, and personal data like Social Security and driver’s license numbers.  That suggests a breach that “uh-oh” doesn’t begin to cover.  The FTC’s lawsuit against GMR Transcription Services –

Shedding light on what your app is up to: 3 lessons for developers

Goldenshores Technologies’ “Brightest Flashlight Free” is an incredibly popular Android app downloaded by tens of millions of consumers.  But did those people know that when they used the app, it would transmit their precise location and unique device identifier to third parties, including ad networks?  According to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, Goldenshores didn’t give people the straight story about how their information would be used and then compounded the problem by making them think they could exercise a choice about it – a “cho

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