EPIC Consumer Privacy
From its early days, EPIC has worked to ensure that the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and other agencies help protect the privacy of consumer and Internet users. In a series of high-profile complaints brought in 2009 and 2010, with the support of other consumer privacy organizations, EPIC helped the FTC establish comprehensive privacy programs for Google and Facebook.
EPIC continues to write and publish complaints, comments, and letters to agencies and authorities on behalf of internet consumers. A list of EPIC's recent work follows.
- In re Google Referrer Header Litigation, Jul. 31, 2014
- In re Snapchat, Jun. 9, 2014
- In the Matter of Apperian, Inc., et al. ("Safe Harbor comments"), Feb. 20, 2014
- Senators Propose Law to Regulate Data Broker Industry: Senators Markey, Blumenthal, Whitehouse and Franken have introduced the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act. The bill would give consumers the right to access their personal information held by data brokers and stop data brokers from disclosing or selling that information to others. Senator Markey said, "The era of data keepers has given way to the era of data reapers." In 2005, EPIC testified before Congress on "Identity Theft and Data Broker Services" and urged the regulation of data brokers following the disclosure that Choicepoint sold personal information to identity thieves. EPIC's FTC complaint lead to a $10 million settlement with Choicepoint. (Mar. 5, 2015)
- White House (Commerce Dept.) Privacy Bill Not Helpful, Unworkable: The White House has released a consumer privacy proposal, prepared by the Commerce Department. The bill falls far short of the recommendations for a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” set out by President Obama in 2012 and broadly supported by consumer organizations. The draft proposal lacks meaningful protections for consumers, would preempt stronger state laws, and create unnecessary regulatory burdens for businesses. EPIC has long recommended enactment of consumer privacy legislation based on “Fair Information Practices,” the basic framework for modern privacy law. (Mar. 2, 2015)
- Obama Announces New Consumer Privacy Initiatives: Today the President announced several initiatives to help protect consumer privacy following many, many data breaches. The President will move forward the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a model framework for federal consumer privacy legislation, that EPIC supported in comments to executive agencies, legislators, and the White House. The President also proposed that financial firms disclose credit scores and that Congress enact the Student Digital Privacy Act based on "Fair Information Practices." (Jan. 12, 2015)
- EPIC's Snapchat Privacy Complaint Results in 20-Year FTC Consent Order: Following a 2013 EPIC complaint, the FTC has signed a consent order with Snapchat, the publisher of a mobile app that encourages user to share intimate photos and videos. Snapchat claimed that pictures and videos would "disappear forever." However, the images could be retrieved by others. As EPIC wrote in the complaint "Snapchat photos and videos remain available to others even after users are informed that the photos and videos have been deleted." In announcing the settlement, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, "If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises. Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action." Under the settlement, Snapchat will be subject to 20 years of privacy audits, and will be prohibited from making false claims about its privacy policies. EPIC pursued similar claims involve false promises about data deletion with AskEraser. The FTC will be accepting Public Comments on the proposed Snapchat consent order. For more information, see EPIC: In re Google, EPIC: In re Facebook and EPIC: FTC. (May. 8, 2014)
- EPIC Urges FTC Investigation of WhatsApp Sale to Facebook: EPIC has filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission concerning Facebook's proposed purchase of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messaging service that gained popularity based on its strong pro-privacy approach to user data. WhatsApp currently has 450 million active users, many of whom have objected to the proposed acquisition. Facebook regularly incorporates data from companies it has acquired.The Federal Trade Commission has previously responded favorably to EPIC complaints concerning Google Buzz, Microsoft Passport, Changes in Facebook Privacy Settings, and Choicepoint security practices. However, the FTC approved Google's acquisition of Doubleclick over EPIC's objection. Facebook is currently under a 20 year consent decree from the FTC that requires Facebook to protect user privacy and to comply with the US-EU Safe Harbor guidelines. For more information, see EPIC: In re Google Buzz, EPIC: Microsoft Passport, EPIC: In re Facebook, and Privacy? Proposed Google/DoubleClick Merger. (Mar. 6, 2014)
- EPIC Files Amicus Brief in Facebook Consumer Privacy Case, Urges Rejection of Settlement: EPIC has filed a amicus brief urging a federal appeals court to overturn a controversial consumer privacy settlement. If the Fraley v. Facebook settlement is approved, Facebook will display the images of Facebook users, including young children, for commercial endorsement without consent. Facebook users opposed "Sponsored Stories" and several have formally objected to the settlement, including a children's advocacy organization which said that the "settlement is actually worse than no settlement." The MacArthur Foundation also withdrew stating it should not have been designated to receive funds. EPIC's amicus brief in support of the objectors explains that the settlement is unfair to Facebook users and should be rejected. EPIC also notes that Chief Justice Roberts expressed concerns about a similar privacy settlement involving Facebook. EPIC and a coalition of consumer privacy organizations filed an extensive complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that eventually required Facebook to improve its privacy practices. For more information, see EPIC: In re Facebook and EPIC: Fraley v. Facebook. (Feb. 21, 2014)
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