Billing Code: 6750-01
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Docket No. 990811219-9219-01
Public Workshop on Online Profiling
AGENCIES: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Commerce; Federal Trade Commission
ACTION: Notice; request for public comment
SUMMARY: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA") of the United States Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission have determined to hold a public workshop on "online profiling," the practice of aggregating information about consumers' preferences and interests, gathered primarily by tracking their movements online, and using the resulting consumer profiles to create targeted advertising on Web sites. The workshop will be divided into three sessions. Session I will explore developments in information technology that facilitate online profiling. Session II will examine the implications of online profiling technologies for consumer privacy. Session III will focus on the online profiling industry's self-regulatory efforts to protect consumers' privacy online. Any person who wishes to participate as a panelist in one or more of the workshop sessions must file a written request to participate. In addition, the agencies are requesting public comment addressing various issues related to the practice of online profiling.
DATES: The workshop will be held on November 8, 1999 at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Main Auditorium, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20230. The workshop is open to the public.
Written comments and requests to participate as a panelist in the workshop must be filed on or before October 18, 1999. Persons filing requests to participate as a panelist will be notified on or before October 25, 1999, if they have been selected to participate.
ADDRESSES: Written comments and requests to participate as a panelist in the workshop should be submitted to Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
SUBMISSION OF DOCUMENTS: Parties sending written comments and/or requests to participate should submit an original and two copies of each document. To enable prompt review and public access, paper submissions should include a version on diskette in PDF, ASCII, WordPerfect (please specify version) or Microsoft Word (please specify version) format. Diskettes should be labeled with the name of the party, and the name and version of the word processing program used to create the document. Alternatively, documents may be submitted to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments should be captioned "Online Profiling Project - Comment, P994809 / Docket No. 990811219-9219-01." Rebuttal comments should be submitted following the procedures described above. All comments will be posted on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site: www.ftc.gov and on the NTIA's Web site: www.ntia.doc.gov.
Requests to Participate as Panelist in the Workshop
Requests to participate as a panelist should be captioned "Online Profiling Project - Request to Participate, P994809 / Docket No. 990811219-9219-01."
Parties may apply to participate as a panelist in more than one workshop session. Requests to participate, however, must specify the session(s) in which participation is sought. Parties applying to participate are also encouraged to file written comments.
Requesters will be notified on or before October 25, 1999, if they have been selected to participate in workshop sessions. To assist staff of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission in making this notification, parties are asked to include in their request to participate a telephone number, facsimile number, and email address if available.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wendy S. Lader, NTIA, U. S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20230, telephone (202) 482-1880, email email@example.com; or Martha K. Landesberg, Division of Financial Practices, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Mail Stop 4429, Washington, D.C. 20580, telephone (202) 326-2825, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authority: 15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.; 47 U.S.C. 902(b)(2)(H); 47 U.S.C. 902(b)(2)(M).
In July 1998, Vice President Gore asked the Department of Commerce to work with the Federal Trade Commission to encourage companies that build dossiers (profiles) about individuals by integrating information from a variety of database sources to implement effective self-regulatory mechanisms. The Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission have been working together to explore ways in which consumer privacy can be protected in light of the rise of new technologies that facilitate "online profiling," the practice of aggregating information about consumers' preferences and interests, gathered primarily by tracking their movements online, and using the resulting consumer profiles to create targeted advertising on Web sites. Profiling typically employs "cookies," text files placed on users' computers to store information about their computers and their online activities. Companies are involved in a wide array of activities that support online profiling. For example, some companies develop profiling software and license it to Web sites that wish to track their own visitors; others manage networks of sites, pool data about consumers who visit sites in those networks, and sell or place online advertising based upon inferences about consumers drawn from the pooled data; still others specialize in measuring the popularity of particular online advertisements for advertisers. Privacy concerns have been raised by many of these practices. Consumers are largely unaware of the creation of online profiles, and the implementation of core fair information practices of notice, choice, access and security with respect to the collection of information in online profiles remains a significant challenge. The Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission are announcing a public workshop to be held on November 8, 1999, to inform government officials and the public about these and related issues, and about industry's current self-regulatory efforts to develop privacy protections for online consumers.
2. Workshop Agenda
The workshop will be held on November 8, 1999 at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Main Auditorium, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20230. The tentative schedule for the workshop is as follows: the workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will consist of three sessions, which will run consecutively.
Session I: Online Profiling Technology. This session will explore information technologies that facilitate profiling of consumers online, both technologies that are currently in use and those in development. This session will focus particularly on the extent to which these technologies permit the integration of information that identifies consumers as individuals with non-identifying information.
Session II: Implications of Online Profiling Technology for User Privacy. This session will examine the extent to which online profiling technologies impinge upon consumer privacy, as well as the costs and benefits of online profiling for both consumers and businesses.
Session III: The Role of Self Regulation. This session will examine the potential of self-regulation as a means of addressing the privacy concerns raised by online profiling. This session will also examine ways in which profiling technology can be deployed to promote adherence to fair information practices. Current efforts to implement fair information practices in the profiling industry will be discussed.
3. Participation in Workshop Sessions
Those parties who wish to participate as panelists in the workshop must notify the Secretary of the Federal Trade Commission, in writing, of their interest in participating in Sessions I, II, and/or III on or before October 18, 1999. Parties may participate in more than one workshop session; requests to participate must specify the session(s) in which participation is sought. All workshop sessions are open to the public.
Staff of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission will select a limited number of panelists to participate in the Workshop Sessions. In order to promote a thorough examination of the issues and to facilitate an effective discussion, participants will be chosen to represent different points of view and interests. Parties requesting to participate are therefore encouraged to file written comments. The agencies may invite parties to participate as panelists who have not filed requests to participate.
Parties will participate in an open discussion of the issues. It is contemplated that the selected panelists will ask and answer questions based on their respective comments, including questions posed by staff of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission, at the workshop. The discussion will be transcribed and the transcription placed on the public record.
To the extent possible, staff of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission will select panelists to represent the following affected interests, as well as any other interests that staff may identify and deem appropriate for representation. For Session I: online profiling companies; Web site operators; online advertisers; experts in profiling technology and software. For Session II: consumer and privacy advocacy groups; industry groups; Internet service providers; Web site operators; online marketers; Internet "portal" sites; consumers who are active on the World Wide Web. For Session III: online profiling companies; Web site operators; online advertisers; Internet "portal" sites; industry groups; consumer and privacy advocacy groups. Each session may also include members of the academic or research community with expertise in privacy, fair information practices, and/or consumer preferences with respect to the use of personal information in the online environment.
Parties to represent the above-referenced interests will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:
If it is necessary to limit the number of panelists, those not selected to participate may be afforded an opportunity at the end of the workshop to present their views during a limited time period. The time allotted for these statements will be determined on the basis of the time necessary for discussion of the issues by the selected parties, as well as by the number of persons who wish to make statements.
4. Invitation to Comment
Interested parties are requested to submit written comments on any issue of fact, law, or policy that may inform the U. S. Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission's study of online profiling. Specifically, comment is requested on the questions set forth below. These questions are designed to assist the public, however, and should not be construed as a limitation on the issues on which public comment may be submitted. Comments should cite the number of the question(s) addressed. Please provide copies of any studies, research, or other empirical data referenced in comments.
5. Form and Availability of Comments
Comments should indicate the number(s) of the specific question(s) being answered, provide responses to questions in numerical order, and use a new page for each question answered.
Written comments will be available for public inspection in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, and Federal Trade Commission regulations, 16 C.F.R. Part 4.9, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the Public Reference Room 130, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The agencies will make this notice and, to the extent technically possible, all comments received in response to this notice available to the public through the Internet at the following addresses: www.ftc.gov and www.ntia.doc.gov.
By direction of the Commission.