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Data 'surveillance' crackdown as FTC pitches new privacy rules

Computer crime concept.
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 19:08:14-04

PHOENIX — The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public feedback on proposed rulemaking to limit "commercial surveillance" and lax data security.

"Commercial surveillance is the 24/7, 365 wrap-around collection of data about consumers, customers, web browsers, anybody who has a smartphone or a computer that surfs the web, that buys things online, that even walks around town is being followed by a web of surveillance," said Ed Mierzwinski, the Washington, D.C. representative of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group.

He says billions of data points are collected each day and then monetized. Information is either sold to a data company or used for targeted ads.

"Mass surveillance has heightened the risks and stakes of data breaches, deception, manipulation, and other abuses," said the FTC in announcing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

According to the agency, the business of commercial surveillance can incentivize companies to collect vast troves of consumer information, only a fraction of which consumers proactively share.

"A company might make one privacy promise to you, and you think they're good for it. But then, they send you an update and they've changed their privacy policies, without you knowing about it," Mierzwinski said.

It's not just what information is being collected, but also how securely it's stored. The FTC is also seeking comments about potential data security practice rules.

"Companies are not taking good care of our information. Data breaches are rampant, and the data breaches have occurred in all kinds of apps," added Mierzwinksi.

Arizona Public Interest Research Group has a step-by-step guide to set up security preferences on your phone, to help protect your privacy and limit what data is collected.

Public comments close on October 21, 2022. The FTC is hosting a public forum in the first week of September. You can learn more here.