The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) hosted a second roundtable discussion on privacy on January 28, 2010, in Berkeley, CA. The FTC has been hosting a series of privacy roundtables. The first of these events occurred on December 7, 2009 in Washington, DC, at which FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz announced that that the purpose of the series was to explore new approaches to consumer privacy. He commented that the current notions concerning notice, choice, and a “harm-based regime” have not worked as well as the Commission would like.

At the most recent privacy roundtable, Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection David Vladeck highlighted three lessons he learned from the first privacy roundtable: (1) consumer education is vital; (2) traditional privacy policies are ineffective; and (3) consumers care about privacy. He said the Commission would be focusing on how best to provide meaningful disclosures to consumers. FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour also participated in the conference. In her introductory remarks, she questioned the reliability of anonymization techniques and encouraged industry to find ways to build privacy safeguards into the designs of new products and services.

To build on the lessons learned from the discussion in December 2009, the Commission focused the second roundtable discussion on the benefits and risks created by technology and the privacy considerations associated with social networking, cloud computing, and mobile marketing. During panel discussions on social media, industry groups generally espoused the benefits of social networks while consumer groups underscored the need to educate consumers about information sharing on such networks. The panel on cloud computing addressed privacy issues arising from the migration of data to the cloud, debated the need for greater transparency, and also discussed issues associated with access, control, and authentication. During a panel on mobile marketing, panelists spoke of the unique challenges presented by mobile devices, such as how their small size impacts the efficacy of disclosures.

The third and final roundtable is scheduled to take place on March 17, 2010 in Washington, DC at the FTC Conference Center. This last roundtable will focus on privacy issues associated with health data and other sensitive information, as well as on identity management and accountability approaches to privacy.