Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Congress should rein in online data brokers

Consumer privacy has been unregulated for too long, leaving Americans at the mercy of a vast industry that collects, stores and sells information on consumer behavior 24/7. For years, public interest groups have been calling for laws and regulations that would give people some control over their personal data, particularly as technology made database aggregation cheap and easy. New rules are essential, but it wasn't until recently that the emphasis seemed to shift from talk to action. The Obama administration is finally flexing some government muscle to help people control what is known about them.

Maybe the change is because of the public uproar over the headlines made by Facebook and Google over their user privacy policies. But anyone who has participated in the digital economy knows that being tracked online for marketing purposes is nothing new. The experience of having an advertisement pop up on a website that corresponds to a prior Web shopping experience is as disconcerting as it is ubiquitous. It's a reminder that everyone's online activities are subject to a huge invisible data collection system designed to sell virtually anything. Data brokers sweep up massive amounts of online information along with offline data. But unlike credit reports, consumers don't have a legal right to see what information data brokers are collecting or to make corrections to inaccuracies.

This would change if Congress enacts the recommendations made in a March privacy report by the Federal Trade Commission that calls on lawmakers to create baseline privacy protections. The agency says consumers need simplified choices and more transparency on the collection and use of their data, a position similar to principles put forth by the White House in its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The FTC wants tougher rules regulating data brokers. It wants consumers to enjoy greater control, and it warns technology and advertising companies that it will act unless businesses voluntarily adopt an easy-to-use "Do Not Track" mechanism that lets consumers opt out of having their online activities monitored.

Above a set baseline, the Obama administration is calling for an industry-adopted code of conduct that can adjust with the advent of new technologies and innovations. A major effort is under way to get stakeholders to commit to a framework of individual privacy rights that companies would abide by, including FTC enforcement. The rules might interfere with the ability of data brokers to indiscriminately use all accessible information on consumers, but the rules also would imbue the Web with a degree of personal data security engendering consumer trust. Now government has to act.

Comments

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18