FTC Staff Report on ISP Privacy Practices Paves the Way for an FTC Privacy Rulemaking in the New Year

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Following up on a mandatory 2019 request for information issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States, the FTC staff in late October issued a Report titled – A Look at What ISPs Know About You: Examining the Privacy Practices of Six Major Internet Service Providers. Among the agency staff’s general findings on ISP data collection and use practices, the most striking perhaps is the apparent degree of integration among ISPs and advertisers with respect to their data collection and use practices. The report also highlights the tools ISPs offer to customers to either manage or control many types of ISP data collection and use.

The information presented in the Report is aggregated and de-identified and has been supplemented with information gathered from follow-up FTC staff questions and meetings with the ISPs that were the subjects of the FTC information request. The Report’s summary of information on real-world ISP data practices could prove useful as Congress wrestles with the potential for federal privacy legislation and states review the need for legislation.

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“Hey toy – can you …”

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The Federal Trade Commission provided additional guidance on how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 312, applies to the practice of collecting audio files that contain a child’s voice, immediately converting the audio to text, and deleting the files containing the voice recording triggers COPPA’s requirements.

The FTC guidance provides that it will not take enforcement action against operators who collect audio files without first obtaining verifiable parental consent in situations where the child’s voice is being used solely as a replacement for written words, such as to convert voice to text in order to perform a search and other function on internet-connected devices.

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