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Big Data, Big Issues Symposium – A Quick Chat with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill

I had the pleasure of attending Fordham Law School’s Center on Law & Information Policy (CLIP)’s Big Data, Big Issues Symposium today, which had a fascinating lineup of many of best thinkers in privacy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s  Julie Brill, delivered a very interesting keynote address about the benefits and dangers of big data, as well as the evolving privacy concerns. The address is well worth a read.

I had a chance to chat with Commissioner Brill after her speech, and asked her thoughts about privacy policies and terms of service that allow for unrestricted and unlimited use of data, such as the infamous Skipity policies. Commissioner Brill stated that, given that most users don’t read privacy policies and terms of service, the FTC is very concerned by these types of one-sided policies. She mentioned that  the aggregation and use of data outside of the context of collection is something that the FTC hopes to issue guidance on in the future, and may well be unfair and deceptive regardless of a consumer’s consent.

My takeaway from the chat is that consumer consent will not insulate a website from FTC scrutiny, and that the reasonable expectations of a consumer may dictate the FTC’s considerations of whether a policy is unfair or deceptive, especially given that so little attention is paid to these policies by consumers. However, at the same time, it is important that policies reflect the company’s actual practices.