FTC must rein in corporate surveillance and data abuses

November 16, 2022

This week, Fight for the Future submitted a comment to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in response to its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on commercial surveillance and data security. In addition to this organizational comment, Fight for the Future has been helping individuals submit comments to the FTC via the campaign page FTCcomments.com. The page has been endorsed by more than 20 human rights organizations, and more than 8,000 people have submitted a comment. The groups hope to get to 10,000 comments submitted through the campaign page before the deadline on Monday, November 21.

This comment period is one of the first steps the agency must take in the process of creating a rule to address the reckless data practices of companies that pose a direct threat to the public at large, and disproportionately discriminate against marginalized groups. In its comment, Fight for the Future highlights a variety of harms, including how companies use coercive practices to amass user data without informed consent (including sensitive biometric data through technologies like facial or gait recognition); the sharing of data with third parties and data brokers; and companies’ inability to safeguard user information from unfair disclosure, unauthorized access, accidental loss, modification, manipulation, and corruption.

The comment calls on the FTC to use its full authority through this rulemaking to address the unfair and deceptive practices that stem from “the mass collection, exploitation, and mismanagement of individuals’ sensitive personal data by companies.” It highlights how “unregulated corporate surveillance and data abuses adversely impact people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, religious minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants, economically disadvantaged people, and other marginalized groups” and specifically calls out fears stemming from the recent Dobbs decision about how data can be weaponized against pregnant people and abortion providers.

By taking a principled and far-reaching stand through this rulemaking process, the FTC can protect users not only from the injuries they are experiencing today but also from those that are likely in the future.