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FTC Suggests “Privacy by Design”

FTC
(Image is in the Public Domain)

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a new standard of privacy in American Industry recently:

“Despite some good actors, self-regulation of privacy has not worked adequately and is not working adequately for American consumers,” Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, said. “We’d like to see companies work a lot faster to make consumer choice easier.”

No kidding? Companies won't regulate themselves? Unbelievable!

Anyway, the article goes on to say:

The online advertising industry, Mr. Zaneis said, would suffer “significant economic harm” if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was “a high participation rate similar to that of do not call.” Mr. Zaneis said the industry would continue to build upon a self-regulatory framework and had recently put in place the use of icons on select online advertisements that allow users to opt out of customized advertising.

Oh boo hoo! Companies that have been tracking and tagging you like cattle would be upset if they had to stop. Waa.

Whether or not the FTC will get traction with this is uncertain, but it won't matter much if it's built into the browser AS IT SHOULD BE. Fortunately, Firefox at least is looking into this in an upcoming version.

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Twitter Warned By Government For Security Breaches

Twitter
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

So it's not just Facebook that's full of holes and privacy issues. Twitter has been warned by the Federal Trade Commission for their "serious lapses in data security".

The FTC had originally accused the social media service of making private tweets and the login credentials of users easily available to "hackers" between January and May of 2009. During that time, someone was able to gain administrative access to Twitter's system (and therefore access to thousands of user accounts, passwords, direct messages, and more) simply by using password-guessing software. That user reset numerous user passwords, allowing others to access those accounts.

As is always the case, when not required to provide adequate security or privacy, most companies will do what they can get away with and no more. If there's no penalty for doing a bad job, don't be surprised when they don't.

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Kellogg’s Cereals Ordered to Stop Lying… Again

Liar, liar...

Would it surprise you to know that sugary cereals really aren't healthy? Sure! They have a vitamin or two and probably some kind of grain buried under all the fat and sugar and chemicals, but why pay attention to that?

Instead, Kellogg's corporation has been busy touting the healthy benefits of their kid's breakfast "foods":

Kellogg has agreed to expand a settlement order that was reached last year after the FTC alleged that the company made false claims that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.”

At about the same time that Kellogg agreed to stop making these kinds of false claims in its cereal ads, the company began a new advertising campaign promoting the purported health benefits of Rice Krispies, according to the FTC. On product packaging, Kellogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The back of the cereal box stated that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

What did they get for such a misleading and blatantly manipulative campaign? An order from the FTC to stop making claims without proper scientific backing. Ooooh! Burn!

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FreeCreditReport.com Class Action Suit!

This totally made my day:

A Wisconsin college student filed a class-action complaint against Experian this week, claiming that the company's ubiquitous ads for FreeCreditReport.com led her to believe she could use the site to get a no-cost credit report.

Go figure! Someone believed that FreeCreditReport means you can get a free credit report? What are the odds!?

How this has gone on this long I'll never know. Even after 11,000 Better Business Bureau complaints the most that's been done to date was the very cool FTC spoof videos making fun of FreeCreditReport's TV ads where they did everything short of calling them crooks.

It's such an exquisite pleasure to watch this bogus company go down; let's hope this suit sticks.

Update June 2010:

It's probably been a month or two (or three or four) since this happened, but as a result of the lawsuit, the FTC has required them to put a giant banner on the top of their website saying essentially that they're full of it. Granted, the site should just have been shut down, but it's still nice to see.

Hard to sell your supposedly free reports now isn't it?

Looking back from 2019:

The FTC filed their own lawsuit and won, but the measly ~1 million fine was so much less than the $72 Million they could afford just for theirdeceptive ad campaign, it just goes to show that founding a company in fraud is a solid business strategy. But I suppose it's not all bad… there was brand new legislation passed as a result of their scam:

The advertising practices of FreeCreditReport.com were specifically addressed in the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Now any company who advertises a 'free credit report' on TV or radio must include the statement: "This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law." The law also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to issue new rules that will force free credit report advertisers to inform consumers that the only place for a free credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com.

On a lighter note, the Federal Trade Commission was so fed up with Freecreditreport.com, they made these awesome spoof videos:

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Sears and Kmart Websites Install Spyware on Computers

Bad Sears, BAD!

The sick thing about this story is that the spyware wasn't a hack against these companies, but was planned and sanctioned by the companies.

Between April 2007 and January 2008, visitors to the Kmart and Sears web sites were invited to join an "online community" for which they would be paid $10 with the idea they would be helping the company learn more about their customers. It turned out they learned a lot more than participants realized or that the feds thought was reasonable. To join the "My SHC Community," users downloaded software that ended up grabbing some members' prescription information, emails, bank account data and purchases on other sites. Sears called the group that participated "small" and said the data captured by the program was at all times secure and was then destroyed.

Remember that there are no laws currently to protect against the abusive data collection and sharing practices that many companies employ. Be careful with your data and don't trust even the most reputable-seeming companies to choose your privacy over the almighty dollar.

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FTC To Challenge Fake Blogging, Spyware, Spam, and DRM

FTC
(Image is in the Public Domain)

I'm skeptical of the Federal Trade Commission's ability to deal with spyware or Spam, but the crack-down on fake blogging and unlabeled DRM is interesting.

Fake blogs (flogs), like the ones set up by Sony to promote the PSP, also try to gain authenticity by masquerading as homegrown labors of love. And while most established media sites have policies designed to keep editorial and advertising separate, blogs may have no such rules in place.
And…
Case in point: the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco, a case in which the Commission actually did charge the company with deception for not informing consumers that certain CDs contained DRM that limited their usefulness.
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TJX Settles with FTC Over Biggest Data Breach In History

Tjmaxx
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC][Mod])

TJX has settled under charges that they had insufficient computer security protecting their systems, but the only thing TJX must do under the settlement is upgrade their security. Woo.

And this:

"By now, the message should be clear: companies that collect sensitive consumer information have a responsibility to keep it secure," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "Information security is a priority for the FTC, as it should be for every business in America."

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FTC Continues to Be Useless

FTC
(Image is in the Public Domain)

According to their annual report to congress, the Federal Trade Commission recieved over 69,000 complaints that debt collectors were violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the law that prevents them from harassing you or using dirty tactics to try and get you to pay a debt). In response, the FTC filed against 3 debt collectors.

Thanks FTC!

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FTC Approves Google Merger Despite Conflict of Interests. Accountability, Where Are You?

FTC
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Even though the chair of the FTC has clear financial interests in the merger of Google and Doubleclick AND she was on the board deciding if the deal could go through AND she refused to recluse herself, the merger has been approved and there's no sign of any accountability on the way.

But it wasn't a unanimous decision. The Register tells of at least one dissenting member of the FTC who sees vast privacy implications in the future. No kidding.

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Head of FTC Has Conflict of Interest in Google/Doubleclick Merger

Warning! Warning! You have found a RANT. Articles in this section are sounding boards for my frustrations. They usually (more like always) lack impartiality and may include arguments and "facts" that may not be supported.

With time I may calm down and make this a real article, but for now, you have been warned...

Deborah Platt-Majores, who I think of an incompetent failure due to her work on the Presidentially decreed ID Theft Taskforce has shown herself to more on the dishonest rather than the incompetent side. Though she has a clear conflict of interest in the upcoming Google/Doubleclick merger evaluation (her husband works for the lawfirm that represents them), she has refused to recluse herself while at the same time, evidence of the law firms involvement with Doubleclick has been "mysteriously disappearing" from their website. But, of course, no matter how obviously wrong this is, nothing will be done about it because of the legacy of non-accountability set by Bush. Thanks Bush! You've really been an inspiration to all the greedy, self-serving a-holes who'd sell out all the little people for a little more power and money. Tags: , ,

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