Mark your calendar: The Federal Trade Commission will host a free public workshop on September 15 to consider disclosures.
The "Putting Disclosures to the Test" workshop will "examine the testing and evaluation of disclosures that companies make to consumers about advertising claims, privacy practices, and other information," with the goals of encouraging and improving disclosures.
Topics for discussion include privacy-related disclosures (such as privacy policies and other mechanisms to inform consumers they are being tracked), disclosures that are meant to prevent deceptive claims in specific industries (environmental claims or fuel-economy ads, for example), and disclosures in advertising designed to prevent ads from being deceptive.
Advertisers use disclosures in an effort to prevent their ads from being deceptive, the FTC said, but disclosures "must be crafted with care" in regard to both language and presentation. To that end, Commission staff has recommended that disclosures be tested for effectiveness.
Privacy-related disclosures pose particular challenges, the agency noted, and privacy policies are often "long and difficult to comprehend," and have privacy-related icons that sometimes fail to meaningfully communicate information to consumers and have accompanying mechanisms that are often confusing. "The Commission has long encouraged the development and testing of shorter, clearer, easier-to-use privacy disclosures and consent mechanisms," the agency said.
The workshop will also explore how to test the effectiveness of the disclosures so that consumers notice them, understand them, and can use them in the decision-making process. Several factors impact the effectiveness of disclosures, the FTC said, including whether they contain the most essential information, whether consumers notice them or comprehend them, and whether consumers are able to use information from the disclosure in their decision-making.
Interested parties can submit presentation proposals to the agency as well as comments.
For more details on the workshop, click here.
Why it matters: Effective disclosures are critical in helping consumers make informed decisions in the marketplace, the agency explained, adding that the Commission "is especially interested" in discussing the costs and benefits of disclosure testing methods in the digital age.