Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced three main topics that will be the focus of its Spring 2014 privacy seminars. The areas to be examined are: (1) Mobile Device Tracking; (2) Alternative Scoring Products; and (3) Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data.

The Mobile Device Tracking seminar, which is open to the public, will take place on February 19, 2014 from 10:00 to 12:00 at FTC Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC. As the FTC defines it, mobile device tracking is the tracking of consumers in retail and other businesses using signals from the consumers’ mobile devices. Retailers and other businesses have been testing new technologies and vendor services that count the numbers of consumers in a store or other place of business at any one time by monitoring the signals emitted by any present mobile device. The FTC claims that in “most cases” this type of monitoring “occurs with no consumer interaction.” The FTC intends to discuss, among other things, how companies implement the principles of privacy by design, simplified consumer choice, and increased transparency when designing and using these technologies. The FTC invites public comments for this topic by March 19, 2014. 

The Alternative Scoring Products seminar, which is also open to the public, will take place on March 19, 2014 at the above listed address. Alternative Scoring Products is using predictive scoring to determine consumers’ access to products and offers as well as to predict consumers’ behavior. Companies may use this technology to predict a wide range of consumer behavior from the likelihood a person has committed identity fraud, to the credit risk associated with loan applications, and whether to send a catalog or coupons to a certain address, such as relevant coupons when a customer is pregnant, among other uses. The FTC claims that consumers are not aware of these scoring mechanisms, nor of the underlying data. The FTC wishes to address whether consumers ought to have access to the data that underlies these scores and whether these scores should fall under the purview of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FTC invites public comments for this topic by April 19, 2014. 

The FTC has not yet announced the time or location for the Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data. Consumer generated and controlled health data is information provided to non-HIPAA covered websites, health apps and devices. According to the FTC, consumers are taking a “more active role in managing and generating their own health data.” There are a number of websites and mobile applications that allow consumers to enter information about their general fitness, nutrition and sometimes even personal health information. The FTC wishes to examine, among other things, the landscape of this emerging marketplace. The FTC invites public comments for this topic one month after the seminar.

Businesses invested in ventures relating to any of these three topics should follow the FTC’s guidance on these emerging technologies. Some may even wish to consider participating in the comment process, but must ensure to consult counsel before doing so.