The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce will hold a public workshop on November 8, 1999, on "online profiling," the practice of aggregating information about consumers' interests, gathered primarily by tracking their movements online, and using the resulting consumer profiles to create targeted advertising on Web sites. The goals of the workshop are to educate government officials and the public about online profiling and its implications for consumer privacy, and to examine current profiling industry efforts to implement fair information practices. A notice announcing the workshop and requesting public comment will be published in the Federal Register shortly.
According to the FTC, online profiling typically employs "cookies," text files placed on users' computers to store information about their computers and their online activities. Privacy concerns have been raised by many of the business practices that support online profiling, and consumers are largely unaware of the creation of online profiles, the agency said.
The workshop will be held at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Main Auditorium, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20239. It will include three sessions, which will run consecutively beginning at 8:30 a.m. on November 8, 1999:
Session I - Online Profiling Technology;
Session II - Implications of Online Profiling Technology for User Privacy;
Session III - The Role of Self-Regulation.
Those parties who wish to participate as workshop panelists must notify the Secretary of the FTC, in writing, of their interest in participating in Sessions I, II, and/or III, on or before October 18, 1999. Staff of the Commerce Department and the FTC will select a limited number of workshop panelists on or before October 25, 1999. Specific requirements for those wishing to participate, and guidance on how the agencies will select the panelists, are set out in the Federal Register notice.
Interested parties are requested to submit written comments on any issue of fact, law, or policy that may inform the agencies' study of online profiling. The Federal Register notice lists several questions to guide the comments. Written comments must be submitted on or before October 18, 1999, to the Secretary, Federal Trade Commission. Comments and requests to participate as a workshop panelist should be sent to Secretary, FTC, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
The Commission vote to publish the Federal Register notice was 4-0.
Copies of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File. No. 994809)