SIIA Comments at the FTC’s Commercial Surveillance and Data Security Public Forum, September 8, 2022

Paul Lekas, SIIA Senior Vice President for Global Public Policy delivered these comments at the Federal Trade Commission’s Public Forum on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security Public Forum on September 8, 2022.

Chair Khan and members of the Commission, thank you for allowing me to speak today. My name is Paul Lekas and I head public policy at the Software and Information Industry Association. We are the principal trade association for those in the business of information, representing over 450 large and small publishers, platforms, analytics firms, education technology companies, and others.

We appreciate the Commission’s attention to consumer privacy and the security of consumer information and recognize the risks associated with its collection and usage. We have long advocated for a national data privacy standard as essential for US businesses and consumers, and for the United States as a global leader in digital democracy. We also support measures to protect student and children’s privacy and appreciate the Commission’s focus on this population.

As this rulemaking process unfolds, we urge members to reconsider its framing of this issue around “commercial surveillance”. As defined in the ANPR, this includes all “collection, aggregation, analysis, retention, transfer, or monetization of consumer data and the direct derivatives of that information.” This definition covers virtually all consumer activity as well as a large swath of commercial publishing in the United States today and, without tailoring, is too broad and ambiguous to provide meaningful guidance to consumers or businesses or to comport with the First Amendment.

The term mistakenly presumes that all such activities are inherently bad. Businesses use consumer data for many purposes that enhance consumer welfare and respond to consumer demands. This includes using data to improve the quality of services, protect against harmful content and security risks, and deliver personalized services that directly benefit consumers. The Commission must balance privacy rights, consumer needs, and safety, including the need to safeguard the public at large from fraud.

We commend the Commission on its recent actions to enforce rules against deceptive and unfair business practices while respecting undue burden on legitimate business activity. We look forward to engaging further with the Commission. Thank you.

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