ARCHIVED: Privacy Coalition Proposals for the FTC

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May 31, 2001

Chairman-designee Muris
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.,
Washington, DC 20580

Dear Chairman-designee Muris,

We are writing to you regarding the FTC's role in fostering consumer confidence in the marketplace to urge you to make the protection of privacy a top priority for the FTC. There are few issues of greater concern to consumers today than the protection of privacy. We believe it is critical for the success of the emerging online market for the Commission to play an active role.

Unfortunately, the Commission has recently failed to take appropriate steps and to sanction companies that have changed privacy policies, improperly collected personal information about consumers, and contributed to further public concern about the adequacy of privacy protection in the United States.

It is our view that the FTC should take certain steps to strengthen the marketplace and promote public confidence in the deployment of new customer services. We ask that as incoming FTC chair you consider the following matter:

  • Improve the processing of consumer privacy complaints so that it is easy for consumer to file complaints with the Commission and so that consumers are notified promptly about the resolution of matters
  • Provide annual reports to Congress on the number and nature of consumer privacy complaints received and their disposition, including the number of investigations opened and their outcomes
  • Include privacy complaints in the Consumer Sentinel database so that these matters can be pursued more effectively by consumer protection agencies
  • Revisit the effectiveness of the "unfair and deceptive trade practices" regime to protect consumer privacy, and specifically the adequacy of the NAI proposal to limit online profiling by means of a mandatory cookie
  • Meet regularly with consumer and privacy groups regarding the development of Commission policies and practices
  • 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, and Privacy Enhancing Technologies
We also urge you to meet as soon as possible with members of the Privacy Coalition so that you will have an opportunity to hear from a wide range of organizations on these recommendations.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Alice Baish
American Association of Law Librarians

Coralee Whitcomb
Benton Foundation

Kathryn Montgomery
Center for Media Education

Ken McEldowney
Consumer Action

Jean Ann Fox
Consumer Federation of America

Frank Torres
Consumers Union

Lori Cole
Eagle Forum

Deborah Pierce
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Marc Rotenberg
Electronic Privacy Information Center

Jason Catlett

Andrew Schwartzman
Media Access Project

Susan Grant
National Consumer League

Beth Givens
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Robert Ellis Smith
Privacy Journal

Evan Hendricks
Privacy Times

Alan Reuther
United Auto Workers

Edmund Mierzwinski
U.S. Public Interest Research Group