Privacy Roundtables - Comment, Project No. P095416' #544506-00068

Submission Number:
Nicole Ozer
ACLU of Northern California
Initiative Name:
Privacy Roundtables - Comment, Project No. P095416'
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) hereby submits the attached comments to the Federal Trade Commission for the Federal Trade Commission’s “Exploring Privacy: A Roundtable Series.” (pdf attached for full comments). The ACLU-NC, based in San Francisco with a second office in San Jose, is the largest ACLU affiliate in the nation, with over 50,000 members. For 75 years, the ACLU-NC has been at the forefront of every civil liberties battle in the state. In response to a growing need to address issues related to privacy, free speech, and new technology, it launched its Technology and Civil Liberties Program in December 2004. The Commission’s second Privacy Roundtable seeks to answer the question, “What challenges do innovations in the digital environment pose for consumer privacy, and how can those challenges be addressed without stifling innovation or otherwise undermining benefits to consumers?” This question fits squarely into the focus of the ACLU-NC’s new online privacy campaign, Demand your dotRights ( The campaign’s goals are: (1) to create awareness and debate around the privacy implications of emerging technologies, and (2) to mobilize community members, policymakers, and businesses to work together to upgrade privacy protections to match our modern world. The Demand your dotRights campaign’s policy papers, written materials, and multimedia and technology-based public education materials focus on the balance between privacy and innovation related to social networking platforms, cloud computing, mobile services, digital book and video privacy, search, and online photos sites. We have also recently produced, Privacy and Free Speech: It’s Good for Business, a primer of real-life case studies and hands-on tools to help companies plan how to build privacy and free speech safeguards into the business development process and avoid mistakes that can lead to government investigations and fines, costly lawsuits, and loss of customers and business partners. This primer has been widely-distributed in the venture capital, entrepreneurial, legal and technical communities and received praise from diverse audiences. We hope that some of our work will be useful to the Federal Trade Commission in exploring how to address privacy challenges related to innovations in the digital environment. In these comments we will briefly discuss two areas of innovation—cloud computing and the growth of third party applications in social networking—and how these two innovations pose challenges related to notice to consumers and transparency about third party access to personal information. In both cloud computing and social networking, consumers are not currently given adequate notice of how often personal information is disclosed. Without such information, consumers cannot make informed decisions as to whether and what extent to trust companies with their personal information. Recent work on the ACLU-NC’s Facebook quiz about Facebook quizzes also reveals that the growth of third party applications on social networking platforms has raised additional issues related to notice and choice for many users. Respectfully submitted, Nicole A. Ozer, Esq. Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director ACLU of Northern California