• The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), a leading US NGO specializing in consumer data protection issues in the digital marketplace, is pleased to respond to the request that we provide information applicable to first annual review of the EUUS Privacy Shield. CDD has been assessing the Privacy Shield since it came into force in 2016, in part as a result of its work coordinating the activities from the US side of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) working group on the Information Society. EU citizens and consumers who deal with companies enrolled in the Privacy Shield program confront a serious erosion of their data protection and privacy rights. The rights of EU citizens under the Privacy Shield program are not equivalent to how they would be protected by EU law. We urge the Commission and EU Data Protection Authorities to suspend the Privacy Shield in light of its lack of any policies, rules, or enforcement that would provide meaningful adequacy or equivalency. The Commission should insist that U.S. companies targeting EU citizens or consumers must operate under the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework. For this submission, we reviewed the activities of several major U.S. companies enrolled in the Privacy Shield program, examining their submissions on the U.S. Commerce Department website (including descriptions of their activities, the link to and content of their privacy policy statements). We compared these statements to the actual data collection and use-related activities conducted by the companies, including their own descriptions of how they operationalize their business goals. We supplemented this analysis with the information that CDD extensively gathers on the commercial digital marketplace, such as automated “programmatic” decision making and other contemporary consumer-directed applications. --- For the full PDF of the letter, see attachment in link below.
  • Public Knowledge joined by the Consumer Federation of America, the Center For Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of California, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse writes a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman, Maureen Ohlhausen, to protect consumer privacy. The letter is asking the FTC Chairwoman to publicly and expeditiously resolve a pending complaint concerning cable TV and satellite TV privacy. --- June 12, 2017 Maureen Ohlhausen Acting Chairman Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20580 Dear Acting Chairman Ohlhausen: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has long protected consumer privacy, in tandem with other agencies, and you recently reiterated your dedication to protecting consumer privacy in the digital age through FTC enforcement. We therefore urge the FTC to quickly resolve the complaint filed one year ago by a coalition of consumer advocates. The complaint provides evidence that the nation’s cable and satellite providers have and continue to deceive consumers about their privacy practices by failing to provide adequate notice, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Since the complaint was filed, leading Internet Service Providers, cable and telephone companies have significantly expanded their ability to gather, analyze and make actionable data that is used to target subscribers, their families, and other consumers. --- See the link below for the full PDF of the complaint.
  • The new report by Cracked Labs titled "Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life" with contributions by CDD's Katharina Kopp, provides a powerful overview of the commercial surveillance infastructure, key players and trends. The report is available as a ten-part overview online (link is external) and as a free, detailed 93-page PDF (link is external).
  • Chart: Here’s How 5 Tech Giants Make Their Billions Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist (link is external) For the full article visit, (link is external)
  • The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), by their attorneys, the Institute for Public Representation, respond to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC or the Commission) request for comment on proposed changes to TRUSTe’s COPPA Safe Harbor program. TRUSTe has sought approval of changes to its COPPA Safe Harbor program that it states are necessary to comply with an Assurance of Discontinuance it recently entered into with the New York Attorney General’s Office (NYAG). While the proposed changes themselves do not appear objectionable, the facts leading up to this proposal strongly suggest that TRUSTe has violated its 2015 Consent Decree with the FTC by misrepresenting its practices for assessing operators of child-directed online services (Operators). CDD and CCFC ask the FTC to conduct an investigation of TRUSTe to determine if it has in fact violated the Consent Decree, and if so, to take all available enforcement action against TRUSTe. Further, to protect the privacy of children pending the outcome of the investigation, they ask the FTC to suspend TRUSTe’s COPPA Safe Harbor program. (Link to the full report attached below.)
  • News

    Groups Call on Facebook to Disclose and Explain Its Collection of Psychological Insights About Its Youngest Users

    Facebook Told Marketers It Can Detect Teens Feeling 'Insecure' and 'Worthless'; Data Could Be Used to Drive Products Based on Mood and Using Manipulation

    Facebook should immediately release all documents describing how it collected and analyzed psychological information it recently (link is external) collected about its youngest users, some as young as 14, and college students, Public Citizen and a coalition of 25 groups said in a letter (link is external) to the corporation today. The groups are concerned about how this information might have been used or may be used in the future by marketers and others to take advantage of young people’s emotions, all without users’ knowledge. Marketing companies and Facebook have secretly moved to tap into teens’ emotions and developmental vulnerabilities strictly for profit, the letter says. The groups want to know how the data was used, when it was used, how many users were impacted and the names of the companies that received the data. “What began as a way for college students to keep in touch has morphed into a platform for brand-saturated marketing and psychological manipulation,” said Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert campaign. “It is incumbent upon Facebook as a cultural leader to protect, not exploit, the privacy of young people, especially when their vulnerable emotions are involved.” According to The Australian (link is external) newspaper, Facebook presented research to one of its advertisers that shows it collects sensitive data regarding young users’ emotions and “mood shifts.” The research detailed how Facebook can analyze sensitive user data in real time to determine how young users are communicating emotion, and at which points during the week they are doing so, the letter continued. Facebook’s research was conducted without users’ knowledge, which raises ethical concerns. “Because Facebook plays such a powerful role in the lives of teens, it must adopt a policy that respects and protects them,” said Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and a consultant to the Center for Digital Democracy. “This should include not only strong safeguards for its advertising and data practices, but also clear limits on the kinds of research it conducts for marketing purposes. Under no circumstances should marketers be using emotional states, stress levels, biometric information or other highly sensitive data to target users. And this should apply to both young people and adults.” “Facebook needs to come clean and publicly release the full internal document, reported in The Australian, describing how Facebook collected and analyzed psychological information on high school students, college students and young users, said Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, European Union co-chair of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue. “The burden of proof is on Facebook to document publicly that they don’t collect and use such information. We are concerned that companies don’t overreach and abuse their users’ fundamental right to privacy and data protection.” The public, its users and elected officials have a right to know how pervasive this research was, who was affected and how the company will ensure it does not occur again, the groups said. The only way to fully address those concerns is to publicly release the internal document and related materials, accompanied by a more detailed explanation from Facebook of what was intended, what happened and the company’s actual practices, the letter says. —30— --- See full PDF of letter to Facebook below.
  • Our Next President: Also Brought to You by Big Data and Digital Advertising

    How the Trump campaign used big data to elect a president.

    The ease of promoting and profiting from fake news (link is external), the use of social media to spread disinformation and twist the truth and the ability to microtarget voters on all their devices reveal how political campaigns and special-interest groups are taking full advantage of the “Big Data”-driven digital marketing system that Google and Facebook have helped unleash. Campaigns now have needle-in-the-haystack capabilities, provided by commercial marketing and media companies, to find and motivate an individual voter. The Trump team (link is external), for example, was able to identify someone from rural America who felt “disenfranchised (link is external),” had not voted in recent elections (and didn’t show up in polls as a likely voter), and then use a data-and-digital-concocted brew to trigger emotions and behavior (link is external). Behind the digital curtain that informs and entertains is a commercial surveillance system whose function until recently has been primarily to sell us junk food (link is external), credit cards and retail products (link is external). But in 2016, the system was fully deployed for political gain. Just take a look at the techniques used by the Trump, Clinton, Sanders (link is external) and other political campaigns that describe how they reached and influenced voters. They are right out of the digital advertisers playbook: IP address (link is external) targeting, geofencing (link is external), pixel profiles (link is external), Data Management Platforms (DMPs) (link is external), algorithms (link is external), data onboarding (link is external), moment scoring (link is external), header bidding (link is external), and programmatic advertising (link is external). Electoral campaigns — from all sides — are fusing cookies (link is external) (data files placed on our web browsers) with information gathered by consumer data companies (link is external) along with our voter files (link is external), which illustrates how our commercial pursuits and political interests are being merged today. Advances in the best way to use all the information routinely captured and analyzed about us, and which has been greatly expanded by our use of mobile phones and apps, have helped companies to create highly detailed personal dossiers that merge our online and offline information, make predictions about how we — or others like us — will respond, and then orchestrate desired behaviors. Google boasts to its advertisers, for example, that it can help them connect with us in a “micromoment (link is external)” — just at the point when we may make some decision. Facebook, for its part, assures marketers they can use its system to influence the decisions of “real people (link is external).” There is little standing in the way of a Trump, Clinton or any other political effort from easily acquiring access to the huge reams of personal information now available (link is external) through commercial data companies, sold by publishers and online enterprises (link is external) and used to target us (link is external) when we log on to social media such as Facebook. The digital marketing and data industry has largely been immune from any regulation under the Obama administration, either on consumer data collection practices or business operations. The US is still one of the only advanced-economy countries (link is external) without comprehensive privacy legislation (link is external), and what little we have is already under threat (link is external). For the vast majority of Americans, there is practically no legal way to turn off or stem the flow of their information. The government’s “hands-off” approach to how Facebook, Google and the rest of the digital marketing industry operate has helped unleash powerful and unaccountable forces that helped elect our next president. Political campaigns can buy data from internet and other companies about our finances (link is external), health concerns, race, ethnicity (link is external), shopping behavior (link is external) and geo-location, along with what we read online and what our political interests are. Leading data companies including Nielsen (link is external), Neustar (link is external), Oracle (link is external) and Acxiom (link is external) sell this information to political campaigns and others working to influence public opinion. Political data firms such as Cambridge Analytica (link is external), which worked for Trump, layer on predictive modeling and psychological tools (link is external) to help identify “personality traits,” behavior and “what really drives … decision making.” Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon sits on its board (link is external). This company, which also helped support the Brexit “Leave” initiative (link is external), says it has compiled “5,000 (link is external) data points on over 220 million Americans (link is external).” Cambridge Analytica is the US affiliate (link is external) of the SCL Group (link is external) in the UK, which engages in political (link is external), commercial (link is external) and defense (link is external) work (including “PSYOPS (link is external)” — psychological operations). According to its website, SCL’s specialties include “behavioural polling, behavioural microtargeting, StratCom and target audience analysis” (a service it is helping NATO (link is external) perfect). SCL’s operations illustrate how data analysis is being used today, from trying to win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan (link is external) to selling us Big Macs or a President Donald Trump. According to the company (link is external), they “combine commercial and public big-data sets with large-scale quantitative research to predict everything from whether people are likely to vote through to what products and services they are most likely to buy.” Its work with political campaigns takes advantage of the “predictive power of data” and uses “physio-lingual analysis tools to uncover subconscious … reasoning (link is external).” Such capabilities benefited Trump, who only won because, as Cambridge Analytica itself wrote (link is external), “The president-elect flipped Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by margins of less than 2 percent. If Hillary Clinton had taken those last three states, she would have won the election. Trump won those three states by a combined margin of approximately 107,000 votes.” The company also explained: The 2016 presidential election showed that the use of data to identify, persuade and turn out voters has become increasingly sophisticated. Cambridge Analytica’s data science, digital marketing and research teams informed key decisions on campaign travel, communications and resource allocation.... Every week Cambridge Analytica collected responses from 1,500 to 2,000 people in each battleground state. It used this research and data to model scores for all voters across key states: which candidate they preferred, which were "persuadable," the issues they cared about and how likely they were to actually vote on Election Day. Every voter in each battleground state was also segmented by ethnicity, religion and the issues that concerned them most…. When, in the final weeks of the race, the firm’s data scientists recalculated voter turnout and recalibrated their models to show how Donald Trump could win, the GOP candidate revisited states like Michigan and Wisconsin…. Online ads placed by the firm were viewed a staggering 1.5 billion times by millions of Americans …. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the Titanic, then Donald Trump’s campaign was a speedboat: nimble, flexible and able to adapt fast.” The Trump campaign also used digital targeting to conduct “major voter suppression operations,” according to a report in Bloomberg (link is external), focusing on African-Americans, young women and white liberals — with tools including an onslaught of what are called “dark posts (link is external)” on Facebook. These targeted messages included “a South Park-style animation of Hilary Clinton delivering her infamous 1996 'super predator' remarks." Marketers use dark posts to deliver targeted content to only on the Facebook newsfeeds (link is external) of individuals, not on the ones operated by the companies that generate them. Giles-Parscale, another online marketing firm working for Trump (link is external), was part of “Project Alamo (link is external),” a digital data initiative spearheaded by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Facebook and Twitter were the reason we won this thing (link is external),” said Brad Parscale, who is now assembling a nonprofit advocacy group (link is external) designed to press Trump’s agenda from outside the White House. How Trump, Kushner and their operatives use the considerable data assets controlled by the White House (which was expanded under Obama (link is external)) and work with their new outside digital operation should raise concerns, at the very least, from civil libertarians and others. Google and Facebook likely will continue to be friendly ports of call for Trump and the GOP. They provide a host of services to both major political parties’ campaigns and have benefited from the Big Money (link is external) pouring into them to target voters online. To help campaigns “understand the influence of digital media and online video in the 2016 elections,” Google hired (link is external) Republican pollster Frank Luntz (link is external), along with Julie Hootkin from the Global Strategy Group (link is external), to offer insights as “guest editors” on the company’s principal website set up for advertisers. Google also promoted (link is external) ways political advertisers could take advantage of YouTube (link is external), its search engine and all its other tools for marketers. It offered this advice: “Voter decisions used to be made in living rooms, in front of televisions. Today, they're increasingly made in micromoments, on mobile devices.” The GOP was reported to have awarded Google a major share of its “largest digital ad deal ever,” earmarking $150 million to buy online video ads, according to Ad Age (link is external) last May. Facebook also offers targeting opportunities (link is external) for political campaigns (link is external), which are encouraged to buy ads and other products to appeal to its more than 162 million US users, enabling campaigns (link is external) to target by age, gender, congressional district and interests. Campaigns can also supply their own data to Facebook, which will help them target (link is external) individuals. Facebook has promoted as an advertising “success” story (link is external) its fundraising targeting for the conservative group Judicial Watch, which included a mobile ad (pictured right) prominently featuring a headshot of Hillary Clinton alongside the headline, “Hillary’s Email Scandal Exposed.” The case study explains, “Advanced matching for Custom Audiences is a targeting tool that allows advertisers to upload multiple data points at once to create an audience on Facebook. Data points include general information like first and last name, ZIP code, state, country, age and gender, and also email, phone number, mobile advertiser ID and Facebook app user ID.” So many companies (link is external) now specialize in or supply data to political campaigns, as well as offer ways to influence (link is external) voters more precisely (link is external). There are even data made available to Republican campaigns by Democratic-oriented companies. For example, data analytics specialist L2 (link is external), which has been helping Donald Trump since early 2015, offers a predictive modeling product (link is external) that scores voters on “likelihood of support” on dozens of issues, including their views of Black Lives Matter, church attendance, fracking, gun laws, gay marriage, the Mexican border wall, transgender bathrooms and many more. HaystaqDNA (link is external), a political data firm started by operatives of President Obama’s previous campaigns, sold some of its own data (link is external) to L2 (and which were used, according to a former Trump data official, to “pinpoint a specific type of would-be supporter.”) But it’s more than just data gathering and online targeting that concerns privacy and democracy advocates. Pursuing monetization at any cost overwhelms what’s left of the boundaries that separate news from advertising or purposefully deceptive content — and the public is being conditioned to accept (link is external) fake as real. The online giants have effectively fashioned a brand-focused online echo chamber
  • President Trump has killed the first real protections for commercial privacy that Americans have online. Phone and cable giants, allied with the GOP Congressional majority, have just voted to overturn the historic consumer-data safeguards adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). AT&T, Comcast, Verizon—the country’s dominant providers of high speed broadband—along with industry and Congressional GOP allies, intensely opposed the new FCC rule. Why? Merely because it gives Americans some say in whether their sensitive information, such as web browsing activity and geo-location, can be used for digital marketing purposes. That’s right. The new FCC safeguard that was tossed into the legislative waste bin merely says that ISPs must first ask for permission before they can take this personal data in order to target us. Such an “opt-in” approach, requiring prior informed consent, is heretical to digital marketers, whose profits depend on using all of our information without ever really having to ask to do so. Until the FCC stepped in, it was the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that served as the primary federal agency handling Internet privacy. But unlike the FCC, which can readily issue regulations to protect the public, the FTC is constrained from doing so. More than three decades ago, the advertising industry successfully lobbied Congress to curb that agency’s rulemaking authority (during a fight over another media issue—whether there should be limits on children’s advertising). Primarily, the FTC can only punish companies that engage in “unfair” or “deceptive” acts—such as lying to customers about how they use or protect our information. But if a company writes a privacy policy that basically provides them with unlimited access to all our data—which is what they do—the FTC is basically powerless to do anything at all. Which is why the phone and cable giants—along with Google and Facebook—prefer the FTC. It provides the illusion of having actual oversight and limits, when really nothing much is possible. Under the FTC’s watch, Americans have just experienced an unprecedented loss of their privacy. In the last few years, for example, digital marketers have aggressively pushed the boundaries of what information they gather from us and how it can be used. Our offline and online data is now routinely merged, generating “profiles” that connect our street address to the “cookies” and other online identifiers provided by our digital devices. Our precise geo-location is also regularly captured by mobile phones and “apps” that stealthily send our whereabouts to online companies and retail stores. Massive one-stop data broker “clouds” have emerged that provide reams of information, including about our finances, health, political interests, ethnicity—sold to marketers large and small. Our data “profiles”—digital dossiers—have become invaluable corporate assets that are bought and sold in milliseconds by powerful computers scattered across the globe, our identities traded for profit, as if they are just another commodity. Ongoing advances in how data are analyzed and used—so called “Big Data”—is ushering in even more ways companies can more precisely determine who we are, what we do, where we go, and how we should be treated. The leading phone and cable broadband ISPs have made major investments in tapping into the latest “Big Data” techniques. For example, Verizon recently introduced “Smartplay,” which helps deliver “smarter advertising” by creating what it calls “individual viewer personas that capture viewing history, account profile details and other valuable data….” Comcast Labs employs “Big Data research teams” that have expertise in “machine learning algorithms, forecasting models, intelligent image and video search, automated scene analysis, voice biometrics, recommender systems, personalization, and deep metadata.” AT&T is relying on its “Consumer Insights Platform” team to turn “big data into big insights….” ISPs also partner with leading data providers, such as Acxiom and Oracle, to enhance the robust details they already have about their broadband and video service subscribers. The big ISPs have also been on a shopping spree, acquiring companies that further their digital data advertising clout. Verizon acquired AOL and is now in the process of buying Yahoo; AT&T bought the leading satellite TV company, DirecTV, in part because of its digital ad capabilities; it now wants to fold Time Warner into its empire. Comcast has swallowed up ad-tech companies such as Visible World, FreeWheel, and StickyAds (and its NBC subsidiary has also embarked on its own formidable data-driven ad initiative). It is precisely because ISPs provide us access to residential broadband or wireless networks that they have a unique window into our lives. While Google and Facebook have their own far-reaching capabilities, they are primarily ad-supported marketing companies. When we pay a (hefty) monthly subscriber fee for Internet access, we should not also be exposed to having our Internet provider capture every bit of information it can, let alone tie that data together with what we do when we use our mobile and gaming devices or watch TV. The FCC’s new privacy rule builds on the agency’s network neutrality policy requiring that companies providing access to the Internet must operate in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. Long-standing safeguards for protecting the privacy of our voice conversations over the telephone network have been brought into the 21st century—and now it’s also our broadband communications that must be respected. (Network neutrality is also under threat of elimination by the Trump FCC.) The ISPs and ad industry lobbyists disingenuously claim that having the FTC protect consumer privacy for all Internet companies, including ISPs and data giants like Google, is the most effective approach. It would be so, perhaps, if the FTC had any real clout. Many of the companies and trade groups urging that the FTC replace the FCC as a privacy regulator have lobbied against giving the trade commission actual authority to do so. They cynically know that turning over our broadband privacy to the FTC will mean business as usual—more of our offline and online data endlessly flowing into sophisticated databases that provide advertisers and other commercial entities (and perhaps government) detailed actionable blueprints of our lives. It will also mean that the only real potential privacy protection Americans have had to make their own mind up about whom to share data with and for what purpose will be lost. The ISPs, data-marketing companies, and their supporters are also fighting against the privacy rule because they know we are also on the eve of a new era—the Internet of Things—that will generate even more personal information about us. In today’s digital era, data is power. And that power should be in the hands of the people—not those that wish to financially and politically benefit by harvesting our information. --30-- President Trump has killed any hope that Americans would enjoy basic privacy protections online. By signing the bill, Mr. Trump has allied himself with the telecommunications and digital media giants who seek to profit from every detail of our lives. This is a betrayal of the American people and an insult to our democracy. All that the FCC safeguard did was to require cable and phone companies to ask for permission before they could profit from a person’s most sensitive information—including that individual’s web browsing, geo-location, financial details and data on children. President Trump helped the special interests and abandoned American families. Mr. Trump directly benefited from the absence of any federal privacy law or rule that protects having our information easily made available to commercial interests. His senior counselor Steve Bannon has been paid by and has investments in data-marketing firm Cambridge Analytica, which helped the Trump campaign. Mr. Bannon would have understood that the new federal privacy protections would enable the public to restrict the flow of commercial data going to political campaigns. We find this potential conflict of interest troubling, and it requires further scrutiny. (Kellyanne Conway was also a Cambridge Analytica consultant.) While today’s action by the president ends the FCC broadband privacy rule approved last October, we believe the public has also won something significant. For the first time, millions of Americans have been informed that they have little or no privacy on the Internet and when they use their mobile devices. Moreover, we have assembled one of the largest public-interest coalitions ever to advance consumer privacy protections. Many policymakers—on both sides of the aisle—have declared themselves as advocates for stronger protections. We will be back. But today, President Trump has given America a digital black eye before the world—a world in which most advanced nations understand that personal privacy is a fundamental democratic right. - Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-DC-based consumer digital rights group.
    Jeff Chester
  • News

    A Big Win for Commercial Surveillance on the Internet -- a Gigantic Loss for Democracy

    US Citizens and Consumers left further exposed to unfair and discriminatory data practices.

    The following can be attributed to Katharina Kopp, Policy Director, Center for Digital Democracy. --- Today’s House vote to overturn the first major Internet privacy protection for Americans, may be a win for ISP monopolies, but it’s a tragic loss for our democracy. Broadband providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, will now be able to sell our sensitive information to the highest bidder without first receiving our permission. We believe today’s misguided vote will unleash even more “Big Data” profiling and tracking of Americans, and spur an array of discriminatory practices. Without any restraints, ISPs will dramatically erode what should be an important American fundamental right—that of privacy. If President Trump allows this bill to become law, his Administration will place new burdens on hard-working Americans and their families—who will be at the mercy of a handful of digital giants. CDD and our allies, here and in the EU, pledge to continue our fight against the special interests that have gained new ways to control how we use the Internet and other digital media. Contact: Jeff Chester Executive Director Center for Digital Democracy Washington, DC. www. (link sends e-mail) 202-494-7100
  • CDD Executive Director, Jeff Chester speaks on Congress’ dismantling of the FCC Privacy Rule with CNN’s Jake Tapper on March 29th, 2017.Full interview available at (link is external).
  • Blog

    Americans Lose Privacy Rights in Senate Vote

    Now will be exposed to ongoing commercial surveillance of their most personal information

    Americans lost a crucial right today as the GOP-controlled Senate voted to overturn the only federal protection that could have protected their privacy online. This is a key victory for lobbyists from the ISP monopolies, such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. These companies have built a “Big Data" business model to track—and profit from—our every move online. Today, Americans who use personal computers, mobile phones and other online devices are the victims of continuous monitoring of their digital activities. Internet companies know where we shop, what we buy, who are friends are, how we use multiple “screens" and much more. ISPs have also acquired the power to take our data and generate powerful insights that can be used in far-reaching ways. Without the FCC rule, American ISP customers will have no real privacy protections because of current limitations placed on the Federal Trade Commission by Congress and the courts. The FCC rule would have been the first new commercial privacy protection for Americans since Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998. Under the FCC safeguard passed last October, a subscriber would first have to give consent—opt-in—before their most sensitive data (such as geo-location and web browsing activities) could be used in digital dossiers designed to deliver targeted marketing. It’s clear that the GOP Senate, the big broadband companies, and major advertisers were terrified of having to ask American consumers permission before using their information. Today’s vote should trigger the European Union to begin reviewing the so-called “Privacy Shield” agreement that allows data to flow between the EU to the U.S. Today’s decision puts our trading partners—and the U.S. companies that depend on the flow of information—at risk. We will ask our EU consumer colleagues to press the European Commission to revoke the “shield." Today’s Senate vote was also a key learning moment for Americans, who heard from Sen. Ed Markey and others concerning what is at stake as broadband companies now gain a front-row seat to gather and sell our personal information. Even if the new FCC rule is overturned by the House and signed by the President, there will be an ongoing campaign to expose the powerful data-gathering apparatus that is being assembled by the phone and cable broadband companies. Jeff Chester CDD is a consumer digital rights group based in DC.
    Jeff Chester
  • Blog

    Empowering and Protecting Youth in the Big Data Era: Issues and Perspectives from the EU and U.S.

    Sponsored by the Information Society Policy Committee, Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD)

    Young people are growing up in a digital world of constant connectivity – engaging 24/7 through social media, mobile devices, gaming platforms, and video streaming channels. While offering important opportunities for youth to express their creativity, explore and learn, interact with their peers, and participate in civic discourse, contemporary digital media can also pose threats to their privacy and can negatively impact their development. Children and teens spend or influence an estimated $1.2 trillion a year worldwide. Media companies, programmers, and advertisers are developing hundreds of new digital ventures designed to tap into this growing lucrative youth global market. For example, Google -- whose YouTube channel has become the largest and most popular platform for children’s entertainment – recently launched a new YouTube Kids app, targeting very young children with ad-supported content. Powered by the forces of Big Data, contemporary digital marketing relies on extensive data collection, tracking and profiling. Food companies use an array of sophisticated techniques to promote junk food and soft drinks to young people through interactive games, mobile phones, and other digital platforms. Children and teens are avid users of social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Twitter, where marketers insert their brands into identity development, peer relationships, and social interactions. Toymakers and other companies are eagerly embracing the so-called “Internet of Things,” creating a new generation of Internet-connected toys that take advantage of Big Data capabilities. Consumer and privacy groups recently filed a series of coordinated complaints with regulators in the U.S. and the E.U over a new Internet-connected doll, My Friend Cayla, which collects children’s voice data and shares it with third parties. While there are some regulatory policies in place, in both the EU and the US, their ability to address the Big Data practices of today’s contemporary children’s digital marketplace is limited. There is an urgent need for fresh thinking about how to balance children’s fundamental rights to privacy, safety, and consumer protection, with other, important rights, including the right to participate fully in the digital public sphere. In the U.S., the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was revised in 2012 to reflect a range of contemporary data collection and digital marketing practices. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into force in May 2018, contains a number of new data safeguards for children, including a provision adapted from COPPA’s model for parental permission, raising the age requirement from 13 to 16. While individual Member States can vote to exempt themselves from this requirement, the new regulation has prompted concerns that youth will not be able to access social networking platforms and many other digital media services. The current debate over the GDPR, along with other recent EU policy developments, creates the opportunity for a broader, international conversation about what the best framework should be to ensure fair marketing and data protections for young people in today’s global media system. This special TACD event brings together consumer and privacy advocates, academics, policy makers, and industry representatives for a focused roundtable discussion to: identify the key issues raised by emerging trends in contemporary children’s digital media; assess the current state of regulatory policy in both the EU and the United States; exchange perspectives from various stakeholders; highlight opportunities for consensus building and collaboration; and begin crafting an agenda for transatlantic strategies and policies. --- AGENDA: 8:30-9:00: Coffee/breakfast 9:00-9:15: Overview of contemporary trends and emerging regulatory issues Kathryn Montgomery, Professor, School of Communication, American University 9:15-9:30: The My Friend Cayla Campaign: Case study of transnational consumer collaboration Finn Myrstad, Head of the Digital Services Section, Norwegian Consumer Council 9:30-10:30: Panel discussion: How to develop effective privacy and data protections for children and adolescents, EU and US perspectives Participants: Andrea Glorioso, Counselor for the Digital Economy, Delegation of the EU to the US David Martin, Senior Legal Officer, BEUC Katie McInnis, Policy Counsel, Consumers Union Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission Karuna Nain, Global Safety Public Policy Programs Manager, Facebook 10:30-11:30: Panel Discussion: What are the biggest concerns we have about the role of digital marketing in lives of children and teens and what should be done about it? Participants: Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood Michiel Karskens, Manager of Public Affairs,Consumentenbond Finn Myrstad, Head of the Digital Services Section, Norwegian Consumer Council Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest 11:30-12:00: General Discussion: Next steps for collaboration and agenda building
  • Phone, Cable Giants Build Digital Data surveillance systems to better spy on consumers. 9 reasons why they are lobbying Congress to kill your new privacy rights. 1. Phone and cable companies are increasing their investment and technological capability to track, capture and analyze all of their customers data across platforms— Internet, mobile and TV. They openly discuss how by having access to more screens— including mobile and TV (both cable and streaming) they are in a better position to target consumers on behalf of advertisers. Examples of what leading companies say their cross device delivery capabilities are. Comcast: (link is external) advertisers; (link is external) Verizon:; (link is external) AT&T:; (link is external) 2. Recent and pending acquisitions are designed to further cross device data gathering and targeting footprint. Verizon/AOL: (link is external) data-core/298607/ Verizon/Yahoo: (link is external) data-core/298607/ AT&T/DirecTV: (link is external) adworks-launches-video-programmatic-platform.html AT&T/Invidi: (link is external) AT&T/TimeWarner: (link is external) opportunities-and-potenti.html Comcast/NBC: (link is external) feed/nbcuniversal-amplifies-integrated-advertising Comcast/Visible World: (link is external) world-comcast-exerts-more-influence-on-the-demand-side/ 3. ISPs have expanded their investment in “Big Data” practices, including for targeted advertising. Comcast: (link is external) into-big-data-/d/d-id/729358; (link is external) blog/comcast-turns-big-data-smart-data-part-1/; (link is external) platform-handle-real-time-big-data/ Verizon: (link is external) advertisers/303186/;; (link is external) (link is external) problems-with-interactive-bi/ AT&T:; (link is external) (link is external) Client-Service-Principal/74668685 4. ISPs using their ability to identify us by location for ad targeting. Verizon: (link is external) customer-location-data-with-aol-advertising; (link is external) us/articles/204610694-Advertising-Video-Tutorials;; (link is external) (link is external) location-based-ads/ AT&T: (link is external) ; (link is external) 5. ISPs have acquired or expanded their real-time data targeting capabilities—called programmatic. Verizon:; (link is external) (link is external) programmatic-trifecta/ AT&T: (link is external) powered-videology-beat-black-box-tv-planning/; (link is external) Comcast: (link is external) Strengthens-Programmatic-Video-with-StickyAds-Purchase-11-268885?page=20; (link is external) advertising; (link is external) programmatic-advertising; (link is external) to-acquire-video-ad-platform-freewheel 6. ISPs position themselves to reap digital ad revenues. AT&T: AT&T wants more digital advertising. 8/15/16. (link is external) strategy/t-chose-omnicom/305446/ Verizon: (link is external) advertising/ Comcast: (link is external) to-scale-digital-advertising-for-20-million-broadband-subscribers; (link is external) video-cable-subscription-growth/ 7. ISPs expand OTT ad capabilities (streaming, “over-the-top"): Comcast: (link is external) unit-boots-direct-consumer-ott-service-content-players/409976; (link is external) AT&T: (link is external) 100-channels-original-content-for-35month/; (link is external) directv-now/ Verizon:; (link is external) (link is external) 8. ISPs expanding personalized targeting Verizon:; (link is external) (link is external) experiences-with-smartplay-by-verizon/ Comcast: (link is external) next-generation-x1-platform-the-future-of-tv; (link is external) watchwith-metadata-x1-search.html AT&T: (link is external) for-directv-now/; (link is external) time-warner-merger.html?_r=0 9. ISPs working with big data brokers, data marketing clouds that have extensive information to target consumers by race, finances, health, etc AT&T:; (link is external) (link is external) Comcast:; (link is external) (link is external) Verizon: (link is external) stories/verizon.html; (link is external) (axciom)
  • FinTech meets AdTech Requires Scrutiny from Regulators, Advocates. Safeguards Needed. NYIAX aims to transform ad inventory into standardized and durable securities. A blockchain-enabled media trading platform running in the cloud and powered by Nasdaq. NEW YORK, March 14, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, the world's first guaranteed advertising contract exchange - NYIAX (New York Interactive Advertising Exchange) - was announced. The new exchange will operate on Nasdaq's world-renowned technology and leverage the Nasdaq Financial Framework architecture. NYIAX will be the first exchange to be deployed in the cloud and also run on blockchain technology. "NYIAX is a trading platform that brings Wall Street to Madison Avenue through a Nasdaq-powered, seamless global exchange that allows publishers and advertisers to buy, sell and re-trade premium advertising inventory as guaranteed contracts," said NYIAX CEO Lou Severine. "By enabling guaranteed digital media contract trading with efficiency, transparency and ease and providing the proprietary matching engine and trading tools trades require, NYIAX helps advertisers and publishers dominate the $72 billion US digital advertising landscape they command1. Once the exchange achieves critical mass within digital, we will begin supporting TV, print, radio and out-of-home markets." NYIAX benefits media buyers by providing a transparent and trusted market to secure and re-trade premium future advertising inventory. Publishers benefit from the capabilities it provides to help them increase revenue by growing sell-through, retaining higher CPMs and reducing fees. For advertisers, the exchange delivers a new way of discovering and purchasing inventory. Through greater transparency and forecasting, advertisers are also able to secure the premium inventory they need in advance. Chief Product & Technology Officer, Richard Bush, is currently overseeing the onboarding of a select group of premium companies on the NYIAX platform. Once the pilot program is complete in late 2017, NYIAX will incorporate trading use cases, benefits and details into the training it rolls out to ensure all clients have the tools and tips needed for proficient platform use. "Trading, a vital part of other market sectors, has now come to media. With the ability to trade guaranteed media contracts, advertisers and publishers can now be efficient and rid themselves of unnecessary costs and risks," said Bush. NYIAX's exchange pushes the market forward by providing both a common taxonomy and standard interface to accelerate market growth and reduce fragmentation. The Nasdaq Matching Engine and other proven exchange data models and technologies provide the foundation on which Bush and his team created the NYIAX platform. NYIAX and Nasdaq also co-created the other modules necessary to specifically serve advertisers and publishers. "We are proud to support NYIAX on its groundbreaking new venture, and making it possible for the company to build a strong and efficient exchange that's a unique development in the adtech space," said Lars Ottersgård, Executive Vice President and Head of Market Technology, Nasdaq. "As a global leader for exchange technology, we can adapt our platform to accommodate a wide variety of market rules, asset classes and new technology innovations. NYIAX is leveraging our Nasdaq Financial Framework architecture, which draws on cutting-edge technology, including the integration of blockchain technology as our core ledger, as well as cloud-enabled trading and clearing capabilities." Read more: (link is external)
  • As marketers think about reaching their audiences at the right moment with the right message, music streaming offers a powerful channel to seamlessly activate CRM data and engage customers during high-impact moments. Today at RampUp 2017 (link is external), Spotify and LiveRamp (link is external)™, an Acxiom (link is external)® company, are partnering to enable marketers in the U.S. to activate people-based audiences on Spotify and engage them with the right message across devices. Each streaming context provides a unique opportunity to deliver a tailored message to the consumer. Advertisers can now take advantage of their own first-party data to engage their most valuable audiences on Spotify, whether they’re streaming on mobile at the gym, on desktop during their workday, in the car while commuting, or in the home on connected devices such as gaming consoles and smart TVs. Through this new partnership, brands can build segments from their CRM records and upload them directly into LiveRamp for secure and privacy-compliant delivery to Spotify. Once these audiences are available in Spotify, marketers can reach them across a 100% logged-in user base and unlock insights about their streaming habits and music tastes, ensuring the right message is delivered to known customers and prospects. Spotify’s partnership with LiveRamp™ is a powerful next step towards building out a people-based suite that makes the most of streaming intelligence for marketers. Spotify also offers a robust suite of first-party audience segments and real-time targeting solutions rooted in streaming insights, alongside a variety of industry-leading third-party data sources for targeting and measurement. As one new capability, Spotify now allows brands to create segments of users who were previously exposed to their messaging on the platform, giving marketers the ability to directly apply previously reached audiences to future campaign planning. --- For a link to the full article, visit (link is external)
  • Blog

    FCC Places Consumer Privacy at Greater Risk as it Seeks to Overturn Safeguards

    Giant ISPs, such as Verizon, expand tracking & profiling of public

    Today in the over-the-top (OTT) world, broadcasters and OTT service providers have few insights into what their viewers’ consumption habits are. Insights are key to making real-time decisions and personalizing a viewer’s experience, from content to ads and more. Imagine knowing your viewers’ preferences better than they do, anticipating their viewing interests at any given time and seamlessly providing content that intrigues and engages them. This is the future of streaming, and it’s possible thanks to Smartplay by Verizon, our 1 to 1 session management platform technology (link is external). Smartplay enables direct communication between you and your viewers. This connection captures how and what your viewers watch, and allows you to dynamically offer personalized content and targeted ad experiences (link is external) to every viewer on every screen. No one else in the industry offers this technology (link is external), but more importantly all the capabilities Smartplay enables you with: Smarter delivery Smarter insights Smarter advertising Smarter programming Smarter discovery Smarter protection So, how does Smartplay work? Smartplay begins right after the viewer presses play. It’s the pulse between the viewer and you, the broadcaster. It provides you with the knowledge of every viewer’s connected device and network conditions so that you can make real-time decisions to ensure a TV-like quality of experience (link is external) (QoE) for every viewer. Smartplay leverages insights about every viewer, their viewing habits and preferences, that allows you to understand every viewer on an individual level and how to maximize engagement and revenues. With Smartplay, it doesn’t matter whether you have hundreds or millions of viewers watching. You can treat them all individually and tailor the TV guide, effortlessly accommodating geographic restrictions and programming blackouts to select highly targeted advertisements. Now you can develop complete personas for each viewer to boost viewer engagement and the value of your ad spots. Smartplay enables you to finally answer questions like: How can I know what programming to invest in? How many ads do I place in a program? How do I best monetize my program catalog by selling to the highest ad bidder? And, you’ll be able to use Smartplay to offer viewers the supreme video streaming experience: their own personalized TV channel anytime, anywhere. By choosing Verizon Digital Media Services as your video streaming partner, you get to work with the smartest video platform and network that enables you to get intimate with your viewers so you can drive up your business. --- Watch this video to learn more about how Smartplay can help run a smarter video business: (link is external)
  • Washington, DC (March 6, 2017): The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Common Sense Kids Action, Consumer Action and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject industry requests to rescind the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, as this would leave parents effectively without any tools to protect their children’s privacy on broadband Internet Service Provider networks (ISPs). The groups warned that any attempts to modify the privacy rule would significantly weaken the privacy protections for children. The filing to the FCC was drafted by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center (IPR). In October 2016, the Federal Communications Commission adopted ground-breaking privacy rules protecting the personal information of broadband internet service customers, including children. The FCC rules set limits on what internet service providers may do with the highly sensitive data that they collect in the course of providing internet service. These rules were intended to give consumers and parents the tools they need to make informed decisions about how their information, or the information of their children, is used by their ISP. Most significantly, the rules require ISPs to obtain opt-in approval for use and sharing of sensitive customer personal information for purposes other than providing broadband service. “Sensitive” information includes precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications. In their filing, the advocates oppose petitions filed by ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner, that ask the FCC to reconsider its broadband privacy Order. The advocates explain in their filing with the FCC: Treating children’s information as sensitive and requiring notice and opt-in consent is necessary to protect children and is consistent with the FTC’s practices. This aspect of the rules is necessary, although not sufficient to protect children’s privacy. All web browsing and application usage histories must be treated as sensitive information because children's information is mixed with that of adults. In order to protect children from targeted advertising, all users' browsing and application histories must receive protection as such histories reveal traits, characteristics, likes, and dislikes. Marketers, who are intensely interested in targeting children and adolescents, would have a much greater ability to take unfair advantage of children, without these rules in place. The FCC should retain opt-in requirements for use of all categories of sensitive information, such as for web browsing and application usage histories. Since this data is inextricably intertwined with adult activities, any required additional sorting of this data into sensitive and non-sensitive data would inevitably lead to further erosion of privacy of all ISP users. Most Americans are oblivious to modern day big data practices and to the resulting potential risks to themselves or society at large. When it comes to vulnerable children it must be the obligation of ISPs to make a convincing case to parents that opting into the ISP’s data practices is in the best interest of their children. The following can be attributed to Katharina Kopp, Deputy Director, Center for Digital Democracy: The FCC Privacy Rules protect the fundamental rights of children to enjoy privacy and freedom from age-inappropriate commercial exploitation. Any attempts to weaken these rules is an attempt to leave parents and their children defenseless against powerful corporate interests. Digital food marketing of unhealthy foods to children and teens, for example, has contributed to an obesity epidemic that harms us all. This is unfair, unjust and not in the public interest. We call on the FCC to implement the Privacy Order in its entirety without any delay. The following can be attributed to Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood This is a crucial test for the FCC. Will the Commission insist that parents have a right to protect their children’s privacy online? Or will the FCC aid and abet the ISP’s efforts to build digital marketing profiles of vulnerable children? We call on the Commission to do the right thing and implement the Privacy Order. The following statement can be attributed to Linda Sherry, Director of National Priorities, Consumer Action: Consumer Action opposes efforts to rescind the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, which would jeopardize the privacy of all internet service customers and strip them of the right to assert control over their sensitive information including geo-location, financial, health, etc. We join the Center for Digital Democracy in highlighting the potential harm to children, a highly vulnerable and defenseless population that has gained important new rights under the rule, which specifically recognizes the sensitivity of children’s information. The Center for Digital Democracy is a leading nonprofit organization focused on empowering and protecting the rights of the public in the digital era. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood support parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children. Consumer Action empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers nationwide to prosper through education and advocacy. EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, DC, established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, freedom of expression, and democratic values in the information age.
  • The Center of Digital Democracy joins 28 other media and social justice, consumer protection, civil liberties and privacy groups, asking the FCC to implement its broadband privacy rules and to reject industry calls to repeal the Order.
  • Blog

    Comcast Expands Use of Big Data to Track What You Do

    ISPs plan to expand digital data surveillance on consumers reason why they oppose new FCC privacy safeguards

    Making a key big data move, Comcast has quietly scooped up a small video metadata specialist to delve deeper into the programming that it delivers, improving the viewing experience for subscribers while opening up possible new advertising revenue opportunities for the giant US MSO. As reported first by Multichannel News (link is external) and later confirmed by Comcast, Comcast Corp. (link is external) (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) bought the ten-year-old metadata firm, Watchwith, late last year. Terms of the deal, which closed last month, were not disclosed. But a Comcast spokesman did say that Watchwith will be folded into its growing Comcast Metadata Products & Social Services (COMPASS) division and that all of its staffers will be staying on. Based in San Francisco, Watchwith is a 15-employee firm that specializes in tracking video information on a scene-by-scene basis. Its technology enables producers and editors to tag their video programs manually to gather "frame-level" data on those programs. The Watchwith system also offers media-analysis technology that enables content and service providers to tag programs automatically using computer vision and machine learning methods. Comcast has already relied on Watchwith technology to add new features to its X1 IP video platform. For one thing, the cable operator uses the firm's metadata in XI's "auto-extend" feature, which automatically extends the length of DVR recordings, especially sports events, that run longer than the original scheduled air time. Watchwith technology also powers a new sports highlights feature on X1 that automatically creates metadata tags so that viewers can skip directly to key plays in a sporting event recorded on their DVRs. Thanks to such capabilities, Watchwith offers some promising new ad possibilities for both service and content providers. Last year the company introduced an in-program "contextual" ad platform for IP-capable set-tops like Comcast's X1, as well as smart TVs and mobile devices. That platform allows programmers to offer interactive ad avails within shows at pre-set cue points, going beyond the more disruptive pre-roll and interstitial ad spots that are now available. It also bought Arris's Media Analysis Framework (MAF), a cloud-based machine learning and automated metadata-generation platform that ties into Watchwith’s own digital advertising platform. (See Arris Ends Dream of Set-Top Software Riches (link is external).) — Author Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader --- For the full article, visit (link is external)
  • Blog

    Safeguards needed for Big Data targeting in political campaigns

    Data-Driven micro targeting shaping how we decide issues and elected officials

    Resonate’s HI-RES Intelligence-to-Activation platform enhances your understanding of your audience with unique insights about their motivations, values, media consumption habits and behaviors–to illuminate why they make the decisions they make–or don’t make. Then Resonate puts your message in front of them – wherever they are online. Statistics: 58% of consumers are more likely to be influenced by their friends and family 47% of consumers are less likely to think immigration strains the US economy 41% of consumers are more likely to believe that the country is on the wrong track Resonate's solution helps you engage voters based on issue and policy positions, candidate platforms and personal values that impact their voting decisions. Leveraging these motivations – the reasons why people act – yields substantially better results than traditional demographic, behavioral, contextual and voter file targeting methods. Political and advocacy campaigns no longer need to rely solely on demographic and behavioral targeting to reach the right audience. Resonate layers motivations and values onto traditional audience building. Campaigns engage with audiences based on a combination of over 7,000 attributes. From education to GOTV, Resonate engages supporters and persuadable voters based on the specific issues that matter to them. They target, deliver, and optimize your ads based on our ground-breaking methodology. Resonate provides comprehensive measurement and reporting on both traditional web metrics (including click through rates or video completion rates) and effectiveness metrics such as lift in favorability or intent to vote. Connect with the right audiences during every phase of your campaign 1: Educate: Resonate helps campaigns of all types amplify its presence. From candidate name recognition to ballot initiatives, your message will be seen. 2: Persuade: Only Resonate can help you reach persuadables based on the issues they care about most. Whether you need to get your message in front of people who have not yet formed their opinion or reinforce your stance with supporters, you can be sure your ad dollars are being spent wisely. 3: Mobilize: Ultimately, winning any campaign is decided by the actions of your supporters. From traditional GOTV to signing petitions and attending rallies, Resonate connects you with the audience most likely to act. --- View Resonate's case studies by visiting (link is external)