Personal data protection and privacy

Put privacy first: new FTC surveillance and data security rules must protect people

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the power to implement regulations that protect people’s data through new “Commercial Surveillance and Data Security” rules that must put human rights first. Access Now applauds the Commission’s initiative to reevaluate surveillance technology rules, and, through expert submissions, is working to support the FTC and help ensure its frameworks are user-centric and focus on safeguarding and strengthening rights while delivering precise and predictable rules for public and private entities. The ongoing use of this dangerous technology not only damages consumer confidence and public trust, but it disproportionately harms Black and Brown people. The FTC must act.

“Protection from commercial surveillance is critical to human rights and civil rights,” said Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “Collecting data, particularly biometric data, and its exploitation to track and influence people’s choices creates a myriad of harms. Especially when we know data breaches are more problematic for Black and Brown people living on fixed or low incomes. Organizations need to take data minimization and data integrity seriously.” “

In the latest submission to the Commission, Access Now details how human rights harms are inevitable when society allows companies to sell flawed technologies. To prevent the unchecked proliferation of this pseudoscientific technology, a robust process to validate the claims made by corporations selling these systems must be in place. 

The submission focuses on the harms stemming from extensive data collection practices, facial recognition and emotion recognition technology, and data protection principles that would create and enforce adequate safeguards around such activities. To protect the rights of people at risk, Access Now is calling on the FTC to:

  • Define and include a list of binding data protection principles in the law;
  • Define the legal basis authorizing companies to process data;
  • Include a list of binding individual rights into the law;
  • Develop rules that impose limitations on companies’ collection, use, and retention of consumer data;
  • Protect data security and data integrity;
  • Use its full authority to protect consumers against the extensive collection of data and biometric systems;
  • Prioritize investigations and meaningful enforcement action of facial recognition vendors when vendors violate privacy, data protection, and other rules through their products’ development and use; and
  • Take a more critical stance on penalties for companies that mislead consumers on the collection of biometric data by amplifying its use of algorithmic destruction.

Access Now continues to fight for human rights-centered privacy policies, including  for a prohibition on uses of facial recognition and remote biometric recognition technologies, and an European Union-wide ban on biometric mass surveillance. 

For more information, read Access Now’s full comments submitted to the FTC and Access Now’s data protection guide