Request for Comments and Announcement of FTC Workshop on Spring Privacy Series #00014

Submission Number:
Carl Szabo
District of Columbia
Initiative Name:
Request for Comments and Announcement of FTC Workshop on Spring Privacy Series
Matter Number:


NetChoice respectfully submits the following comments regarding the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) workshop on Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data. NetChoice is an association of leading e-commerce and online companies, plus thousands of small businesses that rely on e-commerce. We work to promote the integrity and availability of the global internet and are significantly engaged in privacy issues in the states, in Washington, and in international internet governance organizations. Privacy-related laws that specify how data can be collected, used, and shared can create barriers to legitimate online commerce. NetChoice has a long history of breaking down regulatory barriers, beginning with helping travel agents, contact lens suppliers, and real estate brokers whose online innovations clashed with legacy regulations that protect traditional business models. The modern Hippocratic oath says, first “Do No Harm.” We ask the FTC to take this same approach when addressing privacy issues surrounding consumer generated and controlled health data, especially in the form of mobile health data. Consumer generated health data can create unfathomable benefits for consumers such as encouraging consumers to eat better and exercise, helping doctors remotely diagnose patients and monitor their medicine, and identifying viral outbreaks before they become epidemics. While policymakers are clearly aware of these benefits, we worry that current discussions about consumer generated health data are focusing mainly on the hypothetical harms of health data. This imbalance could lead consumers to mistakenly avoid adoption of useful tools and encourage unnecessary regulation – both of which will stymie the growth of consumer generated data and its biggest potential, mobile heath applications. Consumers have adopted online applications and services at an unprecedented rate when compared to previous new technologies. Moreover, research shows that advertising and marketing practices are not making consumers more reluctant to go online. In fact, it is quite the opposite. A recent study showed that the amount of consumption time spent online continues to increase even as online advertising expands. While we agree that generated data, especially sensitive health data, should be securely protected, any approach from government should avoid dissuading consumers from enriching their lives (and improving their health) through online services. Thus, to avoid creating stigmas about mobile health apps, we make the following recommendations to the FTC: 1. The FTC should recognize that not all health apps should be treated the same; privacy obligations should allow for context specific FIPPs. 2. The FTC should examine how existing laws and regulators already operate in this space. 3. The FTC should further research deidentification with relations to health information. If problems are found, the FTC should make recommendations about how to improve the privacy. Our comments are further outlined in the attached document.