FTC Commissioner Surprises Marketers With “Reclaim Your Name” Proposal

ftc-logoThe debate over online and data privacy in the US is intensifying in the wake of the NSA surveillance revelations. However the effort to do something about data privacy has largely stalled in Congress — despite many blustery pronouncements and calls for investigations.

There are also private initiatives that are seemingly deadlocked, including the WC3′s effort to come to agreement on Do Not Track.

This morning, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill addressed the Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference and made remarks that reportedly caught many marketers and online ad trade groups off guard. Brill has been a fairly outspoken proponent of greater consumer control over data.

In her keynote address, Brill argued that consumers be given much more insight and control over their data and made a proposal she’s calling “Reclaim Your Name” (.pdf):

I would suggest we need a comprehensive initiative – one I am calling “Reclaim Your Name.”

Reclaim Your Name would give consumers the knowledge and the technological tools to reassert some control over their personal data – to be the ones to decide how much to share, with whom, and for what purpose – to reclaim their names.

Reclaim Your Name would empower the consumer to find out how brokers are collecting and using data; give her access to information that data brokers have amassed about her; allow her to opt-out if she learns a data broker is selling her information for marketing purposes; and provide her the opportunity to correct errors in information used for substantive decisions – like credit, insurance, employment, and other benefits.

The FTC and Congress are currently in various stages of investigating “data brokers” but have not taken any sort of action.

Privacy advocacy groups are skeptical that online marketers, ad networks, publishers and data vendors are sincere about privacy. The latter constituencies don’t want any new government regulation to disrupt “innovation.”

The ideal solution is a voluntary framework that gives meaningful insight and some additional control to consumers. Reclaim your name is Brill’s suggestion for that voluntary framework. However, the advertising-aligned groups are likely to see the proposal as too aggressive and not in their interests.

They already believe consumer control exists with Ad Choices. As a practical matter, however, it does not.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal: Privacy | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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