FTC May Make Collecting Consumer Data not Worth the Hassle

Once heralded as a modern day Wild West, businesses could soon find themselves wrangled in if the Federal Trade Commission has its way. During a recent Senate Commerce hearing Representatives proposed what has been dubbed as a “virtual do-not-call list”. Somewhat like the National Do Not Call Registry (currently in place for phones which regulates when and how telemarketers may initiate contact with consumers), computer users would be able to opt-out of having their web activities tracked. Earlier this summer the House proposed a similar privacy bill allowing individuals to opt out of the online collection of information such as names, emails, and IP addresses. The proposed bill would also require companies to seek the permission of individuals before sharing personally identifiable information with unaffiliated third parties.

The collection of consumer information has proliferated within the last decade as businesses attempt to refine advertising efforts. Just do a quick search and you will find a multitude casino online of applications Who reads health insurance quotes Journal Magazine’s interactive edition? Retail and wholesale insurance agents and brokers, carrier executives, risk managers, and any individual with broad-based interests in property/casualty and related industries. marketed for devices ranging from computers to cellphones, all of which allow businesses, and non-profits alike, to track user activity and collect information. Though there are conceivably beneficial reasons for tracking a user’s activity (such as allowing businesses to understand how their website is being used, the popularity of its products, or the demographics of its consumers) many privacy organizations argue that the harm has begun to far outweigh the benefit.

So what can you do in the meanwhile? Peruse FTC policies and initiatives and make sure your advertising is operating within parameters. If you don’t find federal legislation and compliance regulations a captivating read, then Chairman Leibowitz of the Federal Trade Commission makes a few suggestions:

1. Comply with privacy policies posted within the organization
2. Make sure to protect against common privacy threats
3. Have in place a system that disposes of data safely, and
4. Take reasonable steps to guard against sharing customer data with unauthorized third parties.

(Prepared State of the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/…/P052103BarrierstoGenericEntryTestimonySenate07202006.pdf-2006-07-02)

Privacy and security advocates also suggest making privacy and security protections apart of everyday business practices. Collect only the data needed for your specific purpose. Once collected retain data only as long as is necessary. If you collect data and do not currently have a system in place take a look at a couple guidelines that the FTC has developed (http://www.ftc.gov/infosecurity).Failing to do so could end up costing you a lot more than just your reputation.