Security

Privacy group asks feds to investigate U.S. IT firms for boosting European consumer data

Above: "European Union flag"

Image Credit: Yanni Koutsomitis

A U.S. digital privacy group has requested the feds investigate 30 U.S. IT companies, including Adobe, Criteo, and AOL, for illicitly gathering data on European consumers in violation of the U.S.-EU so-called Safe Harbor Framework privacy program.

The Center for Digital Democracy sent a request urging the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation today. The Safe Harbor Framework gives directives to American companies on how to avoid disruptions in dealing with European Union member states over the issue of privacy protections. The EU has vastly more stringent Internet privacy laws than the U.S. does.

The CDD’s request comes as the U.S. and EU are wrapping up negotiations on revising the program, which was prompted by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks on the agency’s vast metadata collection efforts, some of which actively target European leaders and companies.

The complaint was filed by the CDD to the Federal Trade Commission, and it details how Adobe and Tune, for example, are allegedly using, sharing, and selling personal data without the consent of individuals residing in the European Union. The CDD asserts this is in violation of the Safe Harbor framework.

According to the CDD:

“The U.S. and EU are currently negotiating a trade agreement that will enable U.S. companies to gather even more data on Europeans,” Chester added. “Reform of Safe Harbor is urgently required before it becomes a ‘Get Out of Protecting Privacy’ card used by American companies under the forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).”

Safe Harbor is overseen by the U.S. commerce department. Safe Harbor entails a “self-certification” process in which companies agree to provide notice of their respective data practices to individuals and give them the opportunity to “opt out” of practices that collect their personal information for commercial purposes.

The chief executive of a firm listed in the complaint blasted the list as nothing more than half-baked PR on behalf of the CDD.

“It’s a joke. But it sucks because people responding to this will see a link of it with your name next to it. The CDD don’t do their homework. This is just an incredibly ridiculous and sad way to get attention,” the executive said.

CDD executive director Jeff Chester did not respond to VentureBeat’s requests for comment. The FTC didn’t respond, either.

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