On December 2, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will host a series of seminars to examine the privacy implications of three new areas of technology used to track, market to and analyze consumers: mobile device tracking, predictive scoring and consumer-generated health data. The seminars will address (1) businesses tracking consumers using signals from the consumers’ mobile devices, (2) the use of predictive scoring to determine consumers’ access to products and offers, and (3) consumer-generated information provided to non-HIPAA covered websites and apps. The FTC stated that the intention of the seminars is to bring attention to new trends in big data and their impact on consumer privacy.

In 2011, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged companies to obtain opt-in consent from consumers before engaging in mobile device tracking and asked the FTC to examine the issue. In March 2013, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asked one tracking company to explain how it collects and uses data from consumers. The FTC’s seminar will address the potential benefits of mobile device tracking to consumers, whether mobile device tracking is anonymous, and how companies can implement privacy by design, including notifying consumers and allowing them to choose whether or not to be tracked.

The seminar on predictive scoring will focus on the uses of predictive scores, ranging from identity verification and fraud prevention to marketing and advertising. The panel will discuss questions such as the accuracy of the scores and the underlying data used to create them, the privacy concerns surrounding the use of the scores and what consumer protections should be provided.

The seminar on consumer-generated health data will examine the types of websites, products and services consumers are using to generate and control their health data, the actions companies are taking to protect consumers’ privacy and security and whether advertising networks impose restrictions on tracking health data.

The Mobile Device Tracking seminar will be held on February 19, 2014 and the Alternative Scoring Products seminar will be held on March 19, 2014. The date of the Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data seminar has not been announced. The FTC has invited comment from the public on the proposed topics, and will issue staff reports following the sessions.