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Feds seek balance between privacy and data collection

Kenneth Corbin | Jan. 21, 2016
Federal consumer-protection authorities expect companies to do more to educate consumers and offer options to limit how personal data is collected and used.

Ramirez addressed that challenge as well, noting that the commission is striving "to ensure that consumers enjoy the benefits of innovation, confident that their personal information is being handled responsibly."

FTC Commissioner Julie Bill is hopeful that companies will be able to strike a reasonable balance in the privacy arena, but says that she is wary of an emergence of siloed privacy measures, such as encrypted transmission that can lock users into a single communications platform.

More broadly, she urges firms to ensure that consumers are kept "in the loop regarding decisions about what data is collected about them and how it is used," but suggests that the technical considerations are hardly insurmountable, drawing an example from the rise of high-tech systems in connected cars that are still easy to use.

"Outside the privacy sphere, companies have excelled at helping consumers manage and use highly complex systems," Brill says. "Cars are now computers on wheels, but we can all drive them because companies have kept the complexity behind user interfaces that are simple to use. I think companies can do the same for privacy, but building the right tools depends on understanding which decisions are important to individuals."


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