Response to the FTC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security

Serena Oduro
Sareeta Amrute
Jenna Burrell
Robyn Caplan
Amanda Lenhart
Alexandra Mateescu
Jacob Metcalf
Meg Young

Earlier this fall, when the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) announced that it was exploring new rules aimed at addressing concerns about harmful commercial surveillance and inadequate data security, the Commission asked for input from the public. 

Data & Society’s comment argues that FTC rulemaking is essential to curb the rampant, unfair, and deceptive commercial surveillance and data security practices that threaten consumers and impede a just and fruitful American technology ecosystem. Specifically, we recommend that the FTC:

  • Pursue rulemaking to combat the many varied and specific ways that commercial surveillance and data security harm consumers.
  • Mandate that researchers have access to commercial surveillance platforms’ data, in order to better understand and characterize their harms.
  • Target specific means by which commercial surveillance and data security harms protected classes.
  • Create accountability mechanisms that include affirmative obligations for transparent assessment practices, paths to redress, and justice for consumers.
  • Safeguard children and teens from the harms associated with commercial data surveillance, while being mindful of the unique complexities of youth, young people’s needs, and their place in a broader family system.
  • Protect workers, who are particularly vulnerable to commercial surveillance, and pay attention to the myriad ways that surveillance is used to control them.

Read our full comment here.

Many voices came together to respond to the FTC’s call for comments, including dozens of organizations that are leading the way in working to reign in the power of big tech and advance the public interest. For easy perusal, EPIC compiled many of these comments alongside its own. They are inspiring to read. We’re encouraged by the strong showing from a range of institutions who recognize the importance of seizing this key moment to contribute to the public debate — and energized by our collective potential to shape the future of how algorithmic decision-making systems are governed in the United States.