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CDD Files Complaint on U.S./EU Safe Harbor for Data Privacy at FTC

Filing Reveals Failure of U.S. Agreement to Protect European Privacy - “The key framework that is supposed to protect EU citizens’ privacy when their data is collected by U.S. companies—known as the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor—is failing to provide them the safeguards that were promised, according to a complaint filed today by a leading U.S. consumer privacy group—the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD). The complaint, filed at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), details how these companies are compiling, using, and sharing EU consumers’ personal information without their awareness and meaningful consent, in violation the Safe Harbor framework. Overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Safe Harbor is based on a voluntary “self-certification” process, in which companies that promise to provide clear “notice” (of their data-collection practices and data uses) and “choice” (giving consumers the opportunity to “opt out” of practices they did not previously agree to) are then allowed to collect information from European consumers without strictly following the EU’s higher data-protection standards. The EU has itself recognized that the current Safe Harbor regime is inadequate, and has called for its revision. CDD’s filing at the FTC, which is the agency that is supposed to ensure that the Safe Harbor system protects EU consumers’ privacy, calls for an investigation of 30 companies involved in data profiling and online targeting, including data brokers that have compiled vast amounts of sensitive information on individual consumers; data management platforms that allow their corporate clients to analyze their own consumer information and combine it with outside data sources to produce detailed marketing insights; and mobile marketers that track devices and tie them to user profiles in order to identify the most profitable consumers for personalized advertising.”

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