“I’m the guy you don’t want to meet and frankly I don’t want to meet you either.” That’s how the Federal Trade Commission‘s David Vladeck opened his talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today.
The line was met with laughter, but the subject is serious. Vladeck said the government agency is paying attention to invasions of privacy that companies engage in, either deliberately or by accident.
According to Vladeck, more and more companies are getting into hot water because they are making apps for children but aren’t paying attention to the federal law that is aimed at protecting kids. The FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits websites or any online service from collecting information from children under 13.
“We see developers of apps aimed at children pulling down geolocation data and emails, and the law forbids them from doing that,” Vladeck said. The FTC recently settled a case with mobile app developer W3 Innovations for COPPA violation.
The problem is so severe that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed a “do not track” bill that would make it illegal to collect geolocation data without a search warrant. Vladeck said, “Don’t collect information that you don’t know what you are going to use it for. You need to be transparent about what you are going to do.” Sears got into hot water for doing just that.
Vladeck also said that the FTC is seeing more cases where companies have failed to protect the privacy of users because of lapses in data security.
“We’re not making much progress here,” he said. “Even big companies are not protecting with the vigilance that is required. The social contract says that if you store my data, you have to take reasonable measures to keep the information secure. If you want to steer clear of the Federal Trade Commission, the easiest way is to read our educational materials.
“A trick to keep me at bay is to pay attention to data security,” he said. “It should not be relegated to the back burner. It should be foremost in your mind at all times. We have plenty to do. We don’t want to see you. You don’t want to see us. “