DBR ON DATA

Security, Privacy and Information Governance

Category: FTC



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Tabula Rasa: President Nominates Fifth FTC Commissioner

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As anticipated, President Trump nominated Rebecca Slaughter, Chief Counsel to Senator Charles Schumer, for the FTC’s fifth vacant commissioner slot. Ms. Slaughter identified the following items as the top three challenges facing the FTC:

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FTC Requests the Shut Down of a Deceptive Cryptocurrency “Ponzi” Scheme

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Recent activity by the FTC in court continues to indicate that federal regulators are prepared to take a strong stance on deceptive practices related to cryptocurrency.

In a complaint, filed on February 20, 2018, the FTC alleges that Thomas Dluca, Louis Gatto, and Eric Pinkston engaged in unfair or deceptive business practice, and misrepresented material facts, associated with businesses known as the “Bitcoin Funding Team,” “My7Network,” and “Jetcoin.”

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FTC Settlement with PayPal Resolving Allegations That Venmo Made Misrepresentations to Consumers and Violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

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The FTC has entered into a Consent Agreement with PayPal, Inc., settling allegations that PayPal, through its operation of Venmo, had violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s (“GLBA”) Privacy and Safeguards Rules.   PayPal operates Venmo, a payment and social networking application and website that allows consumers to make peer-to-peer payments, which also shares information regarding such payments through a social network feed.  The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days.

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Information Injury Workshop Covers Non-Financial Harms Faced By Consumers

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The Federal Trade Commission held its Information Injury Workshop in December in Washington D.C. The goal of the workshop was to explore how to characterize and measure information injuries to consumers.

Information injury is the harm that a victim suffers as a result of privacy or data security breach. Financial, health and safety injury are the most common types of alleged injuries that the FTC has seen in privacy and data security in the past few years. Yet, injury that does not cause financial harm can be challenging to quantify.

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FTC Nominees Identify Agency’s Top Challenges in Web Questionnaires

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The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee has set confirmation hearings for February 14 for President Donald Trump’s four nominees to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

For the past year, there have been two commissioners leading the agency – Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny.

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Strava’s Heatmap & IoT Devices

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Online fitness tracking app Strava recently published a “heatmap” of data showing the physical movement paths of Strava users around the globe.  The Strava app uses mobile phones’ GPS in conjunction with wearable fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Garmin, and Xiaomi Mi, to track users’ physical activities, capture performance metrics like speed, pace, and distance, analyze users’ performance, and compare performance metrics with other users.  As useful as this information is to Strava users, it became widely known in late January 2018 that Strava’s heatmap, easily available to the public, shows the movement of soldiers and military personnel in different global locations.  This information can be used to identify, with explicit detail, the location and layout of foreign physical military installations in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Strava’s heatmap, which was updated in November 2017, is a visualization of the company’s global network of athletes.  According to Strava, the heatmap is the “largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind,” and consists of the following data points:

  • 1 billion activities
  • 3 trillion latitude/longitude points
  • 13 trillion pixels rasterized
  • 10 terabytes of raw input data
  • A total distance of 27 billion km (17 billion miles)
  • A total recorded activity duration of 200 thousand years
  • 5% of all land on Earth covered by tiles

Strava notes that the platform has numerous privacy rules in place, including an enhanced privacy mode, the exclusion of some or all private activities, the cropping of activities to respect user defined privacy zones, and the option to opt-out of contributing data to the heatmap.

Strava’s heatmap highlights a variety of issues associated with the deployment of  Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The IoT, a broad category of technology that is generally understood to include physical devices that can collect and share data and connect to the Internet, is quickly changing every aspect of our lives, from the way we work and how we purchase goods and services to how we exercise and how well we sleep.  How these devices connect with other devices as well as consumer expectations continue to evolve is this largely unregulated space.

The FTC’s 2012 report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” provides further insight.

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