First Ever “PrivacyCon” Brings Together Industry Leaders for Robust Debate About Privacy & Data Security

By Kathryn T. Allen

On January 14th, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) hosted a conference to examine trends in protecting consumer privacy and security. The first conference of its kind, PrivacyCon’s purpose was to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including whitehat researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates and government regulators, to discuss the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security.
“We want to increase the FTC’s engagement with the technology community in order to more effectively encourage innovation that is protective of consumer privacy and security,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “At PrivacyCon, our goal is to have leading experts in privacy and data security sit at the table with us, along with other policymakers, to discuss their original research findings and the implications for consumer privacy."
In calling for research, presentations and commentary from many different disciplines and representatives in the privacy and data security industry, the FTC sought to obtain a balanced and well-rounded picture of the current state of the industry and where we could, or should, be headed.
The FTC noted that it did not want to inhibit technological advances and commercial enterprise, but expressed its desire to balance commercial interest with consumer privacy. “Today, companies in almost [every] sector are eager to scoop up the digital prints that we leave behind when we post, shop and browse online,” Ramirez notes. “The new generation of products we see in the marketplace – from smart appliances to connected medical devices to semi-autonomous cars – all of these mean that consumers must navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic digital ecosystem.”
Ramirez went on to say that the FTC was founded on the principle that strong research informs good policy, noting that the goal of PrivacyCon and similar outreach efforts is to “bridge the gap between the academic, tech and policy worlds.” 
The FTC has long asserted, and the courts have supported, that it is reasonable to expect companies to protect their customers’ information, data and privacy; however, the existing network of rules and regulations addressing consumer privacy are a patchwork that is often difficult for the private sector to navigate. The creation of PrivacyCon, and the FTC’s interest in compiling research and data from some of the brightest minds in this area, suggest that this federal agency may be preparing to take a more aggressive or holistic approach when it comes to consumer protection and advocacy. 

To review the presentations and comments made by the industry’s leading thinkers, academics and researchers, you can visit the FTC’s website

For assistance navigating the various state, federal and foreign privacy regulations that may apply to your company, please contact the author, a member of the Polsinelli Privacy & Data Security Team or your Polsinelli attorney.