FTC seeks new input on data privacy guidelines

The US Federal Trade Commission has asked for public comment on a proposed set of data privacy guidelines that would affect companies sharing credit records and other consumer information with affiliated businesses.

          The US Federal Trade Commission this week issued a request for public comments about a proposed set of data privacy guidelines that would affect companies looking to share credit records and other consumer information with affiliated businesses.

          The proposed revisions to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) include requirements such as making sure that individuals are notified about such data-sharing arrangements and are given the ability to opt out of having their personal information transferred from one company to another.

          James Grady, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts says the FTC is proposing the new privacy guidelines partly because of the growth of affiliate marketing programmes on e-commerce websites. Those programmes result in links between the sites of different companies.

          "Privacy groups and activists have sounded the alarm, accusing a lot of these companies of forming affiliate relationships as a way of getting around privacy restrictions," Grady says.

          The new guidelines clarify how the FCRA applies to companies that aren't traditional credit-reporting organisations, such as banks and credit card companies. FTC spokesman Howard Shapiro says the proposed revisions are primarily aimed at retailers -- although he wouldn't comment on whether the commission is specifically targeting e-commerce sites.

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