Why should you care that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "is the nation’s primary enforcer of commercial privacy and data security," according to FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny? 

Speaking at the ANA/BAA Marketing Law Conference on November 10, 2016, McSweeney pointed out that data-driven companies "have a legal duty to protect and secure these vast amounts of consumer information, both to keep any promises you make about your information security practices, and to enact reasonable data security measures to prevent unauthorized access. No one, including the FTC, is demanding perfect data security from firms; we know that’s not possible. But what is required is reasonable security that is appropriate in light of the nature of the business and the sensitivity of the information involved."

She also focused on the FTC's concerns about "online tracking that takes place is invisible to consumers. It wasn’t long ago when we were only worried about browser cookies on desktop computers; now information about consumers is collected through numerous other mechanisms. Last year the Commission brought a case against a company whose technology uses sensors to collect the MAC addresses of consumers’ mobile devices as they search for wi-fi networks, thereby allowing retailers to track consumers’ physical movements through their stores." The FTC said "the company failed to honor promises that consumers would be told when this tracking technology was in use at stores, and that consumers would be able to opt out of tracking at the retail locations where the technology was in use."

Finally, she hit a regular FTC hobby-horse as it reltes to data analytics, advising "caution when you use data analytics and algorithms to sift through the massive amounts of data available to try to target customers more efficiently – as the Commission observed in its recent report on big data, even algorithms that appear to be facially neutral may have a disparate impact on certain groups of people, and can end up excluding underserved groups, perpetuating inequality."