FTC Tracking and Targeting Town Hall - Take One
Today the FTC kicked off its two-day town hall meeting on behavioral targeting and tracking. CDT President Leslie Harris participated in a roundtable discussion on data collection, use, and protection - an hour and 45-minute long session that ranged across numerous issues. On the subject of health information and its use in behavioral targeting, Leslie made the key point that the biggest concern that consumers have in digitizing their health information and moving health data management online is privacy. A consumer visiting a health Web site and researching diabetes may not mind viewing advertisements for diabetes-related products at that time. But if those site visits and searches are used to compile a profile of the consumer's illness and market to him or her across sites and over time, the consumer may begin to feel as though his or her health information is at risk. The great promise of health IT hinges on gaining the trust of consumers, and thus questions about how health data may or may not be used for behavioral targeting in the future must be answered. Many other questions about behavioral targeting remain. FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz discussed how he already noticed new great ideas popping up - including the Do Not Track List idea proposed by CDT and eight other groups yesterday. Commissioner Leibowitz provided a few good ideas of his own, including promoting innovation in the online privacy sphere to build on the search privacy competition we've seen this year, and working to make notices shorter and more understandable notices for consumers. And just to clarify on the details of yesterday's Do Not Track proposal (which we also blogged about yesterday to clearly articulate and illustrate how it might work) - we are not suggesting that the FTC or any government agency build any kind of technology to help stop the tracking. Some clunky technology already exists to use such a list in most browsers. Should the Do Not Track idea take hold, that would be up to browser makers, or, if browser makers are unwilling, perhaps even CDT.