FTC Seeks New Privacy Research

The Federal Trade Commission is calling for research into privacy and security issues, including how to quantify the costs and benefits of keeping data about consumers private.

The research will be unveiled at the fourth annual PrivacyCon, to be held June 27.

The agency said Wednesday that it is seeking “empirical research and economic frameworks,” as opposed to “pure opinion.” The FTC is specifically seeking research into how businesses and consumers view privacy.

The FTC is soliciting presentations on dozens of questions, including what consumers are willing to pay or what services they will avoid in order to keep data about them private. The agency also is asking how to quantify the “costs and benefits to consumers of various information uses,” and about the “costs to consumers of reduced information flows.”



The agency also wants research about “market failures” in privacy, including whether “information asymmetry” -- meaning that businesses know more than consumers about how data is stored and used -- makes it harder for consumers to "make informed choices."

A separate potential market failure flagged by the FTC deals with "Big Data" and whether its analysis “may allow sensitive inferences to be drawn about consumers based on non-sensitive data.”

Another question centers on the role intermediaries may play in data breaches or privacy glitches. "When there are multiple parties to a transaction (e.g., app developers, carriers, operating systems, ad networks), how should responsibility be allocated among them if consumers’ privacy is compromised?" the FTC asks.

Presentations must be submitted to the agency by March 15.

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