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The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on a petition by Sears Holding Management requesting that the FTC reopen and modify a 2009 FTC order settling charges that Sears failed to disclose adequately the scope of consumers’ personal information it collected via a downloadable software app.

Specifically, the petition states that as a result of changing circumstances over the past eight years, and in the public interest, the order should be modified to update the order’s existing definition of “tracking application,” which the company says unnecessarily restricts its ability to compete in the mobile app marketplace. According to the petition, a modification would enable the company to “keep step with current market practices” related to retail online tracking applications.

According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, Sears represented to consumers that the software would track their “online browsing.” The FTC alleged that the software would also monitor consumers’ online secure sessions – including sessions on third parties’ Web sites – and collect information transmitted in those sessions, such as the contents of shopping carts, online bank statements, drug prescription records, video rental records, library borrowing histories, and the sender, recipient, subject, and size for web-based e-mails. The software would also track some computer activities that were not related to the Internet. The settlement order barred Sears from collecting data from the consumers who downloaded the software and to destroy all data it had previously collected.

The Commission will decide whether to approve Sears’ petition following the expiration of a 30-day public comment period. Public comments may be submitted until December 8, 2017. Written comments should be sent to: FTC Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Comments can also be submitted electronically.

Copies of the petition can be found on the FTC’s website. (The staff contact is Jarad Brown, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2927)

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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