10 Important Questions about Privacy as we head into 2013

Saira Nayak
Director of Policy, TRUSTe

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In 2012, privacy went mainstream.

Issues that were previously the sole province of policy wonks became part of the national discussion: the Petraeus-Broadwell scandal (email privacy and ECPA reform), relaxed FAA restrictions resulting in the use of drones by law enforcement (limits on government surveillance, more ECPA reform) and the very successful role of big data and microtargeting in the 2012 elections (OBA compliance anyone?).

As we start 2013 with privacy firmly ensconced in the national consciousness, important questions – about how privacy policy and enforcement should be framed- remain unanswered.

Here are the questions we think will continue to loom large for consumers, industry and policymakers in 2013:

1. Should law enforcement be required to get a warrant before accessing my emails and texts?

The Petraeus-Broadwell episode demonstrated how easily the government can gain access to electronic communications (texts, email) without an individual’s knowledge or permission. Shortly after the story broke, legislation requiring a warrant for access to an individual’s electronic communications advanced with bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The bill should have a good chance this year, but that all depends on whether privacy will have visibility and bipartisan support in the 113th Congress.] (more…)

How Flash Cookies Left A Bad Taste In the FTC’s Mouth

John Gamble
Marketing Manager | TRUSTe


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Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with ScanScout, an online video advertising network, over charges that the company deceived consumers about their ability to opt-out of online tracking activities. ScanScout’s privacy policy read:

“You can opt out of receiving a cookie by changing your browser settings to prevent the receipt of cookies.”

The problem? That wasn’t actually true. While one can opt-out of HTTP cookies using this method, the Flash cookies used by ScanScout to track consumers cannot be controlled via browser settings. (For more information about tracking technology like Flash cookies, check out this FTC educational article).  The FTC found ScanScout’s disclosure deceptive and in violation of the FTC Act and as part of the settlement the company is required to complete the following actions:

  1. Fix their privacy policy
  2. Display prominent notice on their homepage disclosing their tracking and linking to an opt-out mechanism
  3. Display a link within or next to all its targeted display ads that provides an opt-out mechanism

There’s been a real uptick in FTC privacy cases in the last year – most recently they’ve settled with skidekids.com for COPPA violations, Google over its “Google Buzz” rollout,  Frostwire for its Android App, and now ScanScout. And that’s just in the last two months! Could your company be next? Here are some takeaways from this most recent case:

You need total transparency in your privacy policy 

Leave no stone unturned in your disclosures. Avoid ambiguous language: if you’re tracking consumers then in no uncertain terms you should disclose a) how you are doing it, and b) how consumers can opt-out of it. Anything short of that invites scrutiny. (more…)