Common Cause Submits Comments to FTC Highlighting Commercial Surveillance Harms to Democracy & Civil Rights

Today, Common Cause submitted comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on the harms stemming from commercial surveillance and whether new rules are needed to protect people’s privacy and information.

The comments highlight the unique harms to democracy and civil rights caused by modern commercial surveillance practices and put forward solutions for how the FTC can adequately address these harms.

The harms highlighted include:

  • The use of discriminatory algorithms to enable voter suppression.
  • Exploitative data collection practices combined with advertising targeting tools to micro-target fraudulent content.
  • The use of data to engage in discriminatory practices based on protected characteristics, which disproportionately impacts the ability of marginalized communities to fully participate in our society.

The solutions recommended include:

  • Limiting the types of data companies can collect and sell by utilizing a data minimization framework.
  • Implementing nondiscrimination rules to prevent companies from discriminating against consumers who exercise their privacy rights and prohibiting companies from discriminating against protected classes.
  • Providing consumers with the right to access, correct, and delete personal data and the ability to opt-out of the processing of personal data.
  • Requiring transparency around both primary and secondary uses of data.

Statement of Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director

“We commend the FTC for initiating this critical proceeding to safeguard our privacy online. For too long, companies have failed to adequately protect our data and have now developed commercial surveillance business models that have had negative consequences to our democracy and civil rights online. Bad actors can easily exploit existing data practices to engage in voter suppression tactics online. Data-driven discrimination has also detrimentally impacted people of color and other marginalized communities, preventing them from accessing economic opportunities and equal rights online.   We look forward to continued participation in this proceeding and encourage the FTC to adopt a comprehensive regulatory approach that would give individuals far greater control over their data, safeguard civil rights online, and ensure bad actors cannot exploit data to undermine our democracy.”

To view the comments, click here.