FTC Workshop on Practices and Privacy Implications of Comprehensive Collection of Internet Users’ Data (Updated w/Agenda)

Practices and Privacy Implications of Comprehensive Collection of Internet Users’ Data

Federal Trade Commission
December 6, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on December 6, 2012, to explore the practices and privacy implications of comprehensive collection of data about consumers’ online activities. Entities such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), operating systems, browsers, social media, and mobile carriers have the capability to collect data about computer users across the Internet, beyond direct interactions between consumers and these entities. The workshop will bring together consumer protection organizations, academics, business and industry representatives, privacy professionals, and others to examine the collection and use of such data, its potential benefits, privacy concerns, and related issues. The workshop is free and open to the public.

The workshop will explore topics including:

  • What methods are used to collect data about consumers’ activities across the Internet?
  • What are the benefits of comprehensive data collection and what are the possible privacy challenges?
  • Which entities are capable of comprehensive data collection, and which of them are doing so?
  • How aware are consumers of comprehensive data collection, and what are their attitudes toward it?
  • If companies implement comprehensive data collection, how can they effectively inform consumers about the collection and provide meaningful choice to consumers?
  • What privacy risks are created by serving as a host for third-party applications?
  • Are there sufficient choices among online products and services to give consumers meaningful options should they wish to avoid products or services that use comprehensive data collection?
  • What legal protections currently exist in this area?
  • What legal protections should be provided?


9:00-9:15am ET Opening Remarks
Commissioner Julie Brill
Federal Trade Commission

9:15-10:00am The Technological Landscape of Comprehensive Data Collection
In this presentation, Professor Dan Wallach, Rice University, will explain the current technological means through which consumers’ online activities can be collected and the limits to that technology. He will explore which types of entities have the ability to collect data about consumers’ online activities in order to create comprehensive profiles. He will also describe current and possible future uses for such profiles.

10:00-10:15am Break

10:15am-12:00pm Benefits and Risks of Comprehensive Data Collection
This panel will explore both the benefits to consumers from the technologies that allow comprehensive data collection as well as the various privacy concerns associated with the ability to track all, or virtually all, of a consumer’s online activities. The panel will discuss the products and services these technologies create or enable; the types of information that can be collected and how that information is used; and the associated benefits and privacy risks.

12:00-1:30pm Lunch

1:30-1:45pm Remarks
Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen
Federal Trade Commission

1:45-3:00pm Consumer Attitudes About and Choice with Respect to Comprehensive Data Collection
This panel will examine consumer attitudes and knowledge about comprehensive data collection and the role of consumer choice and transparency. Panelists will discuss what consumers know about the comprehensive data collection that can or does occur; what consumers should be told about such collection; what choices consumers should have about such collection; and whether there are competitive alternatives in order to make choices meaningful.

3:00-3:15pm Break

3:15-4:30pm The Future of Comprehensive Data Collection
This panel will focus on potential next steps for industry and policy makers in the area of comprehensive data collection. In particular, panelists will discuss what standards should apply to comprehensive data collection and whether the market can provide alternatives for consumers who wish to avoid such collection.

4:30-4:45pm Closing Remarks