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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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The Truth About Bottled Water

Water
(Image is in the Public Domain)

This chart is a little eye-opening. I already knew that a lot of bottled water is actually filtered tap water, but I didn't know (nor am I surprised) that the regulation on bottled water is insufficient. If you want to buy a bottle of water, go ahead, but know what you're getting for the money.

Presented by Online Education

The Facts About Bottled Water
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H1N1 (Swine Flu) Myths, Facts, and Governement Negligence

Swine Flu!

The CDC says swine flu is everywhere. A CBS investigation says it's not. How do you know who's telling the truth? Well, try looking at the evidence.

According to Dr. Mercola of mercola.com:

  • The CDC has stopped testing for Swine Flu so how would they know how wide-spread it is?
  • The CDC has a long history of conflicts of interest between makers of vaccines and regulators of vaccines.
  • "the U.S. government has granted vaccine makers total legal immunity from any lawsuits that result from the new swine flu vaccine"

And a little more detail on that last one:

The most problematic aspect of the PREP Act is that it removes all financial incentive to make a safe product.

In fact, vaccine makers now have a negative incentive to test it for safety, because if they are aware of problems, then they could potentially be held liable for willful misconduct!

As long as they can prove they "didn't know" of any problem, they will not be liable for damages. Hence it's in their best interest to know as little as possible about the adverse reactions it might cause.

Before you get hyped up about this "pandemic" and rush out to get the vaccine, maybe you should do a little more research. I'm not suggesting there's some conspiracy theory here, just that if what the article says is true, we already know that poor regulation leads to tragedies and abuse and the Swine Flu issue may be just one more example.

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Every Bank Abuses You With Credit

One hundred percent of credit cards offered online by the leading bank card issuers continue to include practices that will be outlawed once legislation passed in May takes effect next year.

What this hardly surprising bit of news is saying is that every single bank, because they've been allowed to thus far, uses abusive and deceptive credit practices. It just boggles my mind when people say the market can "regulate itself". I wonder why several hundred years of abuses isn't enough evidence of just how wrong that is.

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Wide-spread Drinking Water Contamination

Just another example for why we need federal monitoring and regulation of certain industries and services. Stuff like this would go on all the time if there wasn't oversight and corresponding accountability. Just look at the presidential adminsitration for an example. Now to see if anything comes of this. (Circulating everywhere online, but I got it at The Consumerist) Tags: , ,

USDA Tries to Prevent Health Inspections of Meat

Food Inspection
(Image is in the Public Domain)

What is the point of a federal regulatory agency that won't do it's job?

The issue landed in court after Creekstone Farms offended the USDA by constructing a state of the art facility to test for mad cow. The USDA fears that testing will reveal too many 'false positives,' scaring the hell out of consumers and threatening the financial health of the nation's meat industry.

Since when was the regulatory agency in the business of social control rather than industry regulation?

They must be taking pointers from the FDA and the FTC.

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Using data brokering to Take the Elderly

Data brokering is dangerous and uncontrolled
(Image used under: Creative Commons 3.0 [SRC][Mod])

You know all those times I've complained about data brokering and how companies are able to hit us where we are weakest because of all they learn and profile about us? I'm not just making this stuff up.

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say. InfoUSA advertised lists of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," 3.3 million older people "looking for ways to make money," and "Suffering Seniors," 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. "Oldies but Goodies" contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: "These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change."
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