The Federal Trade Commission today announced it is exploring rules to crack down on harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security. Commercial surveillance is the business of collecting, analyzing, and profiting from information about people. Mass surveillance has heightened the risks and stakes of data breaches, deception, manipulation, and other abuses. The FTC’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks public comment on the harms stemming from commercial surveillance and whether new rules are needed to protect people’s privacy and information.
“Firms now collect personal data on individuals at a massive scale and in a stunning array of contexts,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “The growing digitization of our economy—coupled with business models that can incentivize endless hoovering up of sensitive user data and a vast expansion of how this data is used—means that potentially unlawful practices may be prevalent. Our goal today is to begin building a robust public record to inform whether the FTC should issue rules to address commercial surveillance and data security practices and what those rules should potentially look like.”
The business of commercial surveillance can incentivize companies to collect vast troves of consumer information, only a small fraction of which consumers proactively share. Companies reportedly surveil consumers while they are connected to the internet – every aspect of their online activity, their family and friend networks, browsing and purchase histories, location and physical movements, and a wide range of other personal details.
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