FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan next to a letter signed by 45 groups urging the agency to crack down on 'discriminatory and abusive data practices'

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45 groups call on FTC to end discriminatory and abusive data practices

The groups say the FTC can make rules that address a 'range of data harms.'

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Oct 28, 2021   Updated Oct 29, 2021, 10:10 am CDT

A collection of more than 40 civil rights, public interest, and internet rights groups are urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to craft rules that address ‘the entire life cycle” of data and crack down on discriminatory and abusive data practices.

The groups wrote a letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan where they urge the commission to respond to a “range of data harms” and establish “clear rules against discriminatory and abusive data practices.”

In the letter, the groups note that data collection and data sharing has an impact on civil rights, like when companies use personal data to “enable or even perpetuate discriminatory practices” against people of color, the LGBTQ community, low-income people, and other marginalized groups.

“Companies also use personal data to track, confuse, trick, and exploit individuals for commercial gain,” the letter reads, adding: “It is well documented that discriminatory and abusive data practices are prevalent, indicating a widespread pattern of unfair or deceptive practices across all major spheres of everyday life of commerce, including employment, finance, healthcare, credit, insurance, housing, and education. These practices are embedded in every sector of society and especially harm historically disadvantaged communities.”

In September, a group of eight senators called on the FTC to “set clear safeguards” on the collection and use of personal data, saying that consumer privacy in the U.S. has become a “consumer crisis.”

The senators—including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others—said that there needed to be a national standard for data privacy to “protect consumers, reinforce civil rights, and safeguard our nation’s cybersecurity.”

The letter from the advocacy groups echoed the senators, calling on the FTC to create rules and establish requirements that place restrictions on the type of personal data involved, how that data is used, and who uses or shares the personal data.

“We urge the Commission to comprehensively address discriminatory and abusive data practices in a privacy rulemaking proceeding and set standards to protect all consumers,” the letter reads.

The letter was signed by 45 groups including Free Press, the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Fight for the Future, MediaJustice, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Public Knowledge, and numerous others.

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*First Published: Oct 28, 2021, 9:13 am CDT