This morning, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton, (R-TX), Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, hosted a roundtable briefing with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, and invited representatives of companies and consumer advocacy groups to discuss the “data broker” industry and consumer concerns with the transparency of data collection practices.

Today’s briefing followed a request on July 24, 2012 to nine companies identified by Representatives Markey and Barton as data brokers for additional information on their data collection practices and operations. The companies responded to the requests in August 2012. At the briefing today, much of the discussion revolved around the question of how to properly define companies that should be considered data brokers, given the broad-based collection of information by businesses about consumers online for a multitude of purposes. As industry representatives pointed out, many of the uses of consumer data are beneficial and already regulated under federal and state laws, and regulations promulgated under them. Consumer advocates raised concerns about collection and uses of consumer data not already regulated. Consensus was not reached on how to define data brokers, or how to address concerns raised about practices, but the government participants stated that the open discussion was informative on these matters.

A notable announcement by the FTC at today’s briefing was the statement by Chairman Leibowitz that the FTC may complete its work by next week and issue a rule on regulations that would strengthen the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which protects the online privacy of children 13 and younger. Congressman Markey also announced at the conclusion of the briefing that he and Congressman Barton planned to reintroduce in 2013 the same children’s privacy bill (H.R. 1895) that they sponsored this year but that did not receive consideration. Mr. Markey noted that he and Mr. Barton had support from approximately 50 other members of the House at this point and that they expected increased support for his legislation next Congress.