July 17, 2001
Chairman Timothy Muris
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.,
Washington, DC 20580
Dear Chairman Muris,
We would like to thank you for agreeing to meet with members of the Privacy Coalition, a non partisan coalition of consumer, civil liberties, educational, library, labor, and family-based groups. We recognize that the FTC has a crucial role to play in the protection of privacy and fostering consumer confidence in the marketplace. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to repeat our earlier proposals for steps the FTC can take to better achieve this goal. We believe that the FTC should:
1. Improve the processing of consumer privacy complaints by providing a dedicated system for documenting and monitoring these complaints, that would incorporate a separate complaint form, similar to that used for ID theft, and give notification and feedback to complainants.
2. Issue detailed annual reports outlining the number and nature of complaints received, the number of investigations filed and the final outcome of those cases. These reports would provide valuable insight into the complaints processing system and how decisions to pursue investigations are made.
3. Include privacy complaints in the Consumer Sentinel database so that these matters can be pursued more effectively by consumer protection agencies. We believe that by extending the same amount of international co-operation to privacy complaints as consumer fraud complaints would not only increase oversight of privacy practices but would give assurance to individuals that there privacy complaint is a serious concern of the FTC.
4. Increase enforcement of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act not only for cases of fraud but also for invasions of privacy.
5. Revise the interpretation of an "unfair and deceptive practice" and take into account the principles of Fair Information Practices when examining or endorsing industry practices, such as the NAI proposal to limit online profiling by means of a mandatory cookie or the unilateral revision of privacy policies by companies.
6. Conduct a business education campaign promoting compliance with Fair Information practices among the private sector. At present the FTC does not provide definitive guidance to data collectors on how to meet these principles. A clear advisory opinion is needed to promote good privacy principles.
7. Continue to meet regularly with privacy groups in order to ensure that the public interest is at least as well represented as industry interests in the developing an appropriate policy for privacy protection. The U.S. Senate has itself noted the importance of this involvement. Last June, following hearings on online profiling seven members of the Senate Commerce Committee specifically wrote to former FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky urging the inclusion of privacy and consumer groups in negotiations on privacy issues stating that their involvement gives "credibility to the final outcome" and "is essential in promoting consumer confidence on the Internet."
8. Continue to organize public workshops and proceedings that enable public input, from consumer groups, business groups, and technical experts on emerging electronic commerce issues, such as payment systems, identification schemes, security schemes and Privacy Enhancing Technologies.
9. Establish contact with national data protection commissions that have been established in many industrialized countries around the world. The global online marketplace would benefit from greater cooperation and harmonization between national agencies with jurisdiction over consumer privacy protection.
We believe that these recommendations would improve the effectiveness of the FTC and respond to the growing concerns about private sector collection, use and dissemination of personal information in the digital age.
The Privacy Coalition