I just attended a session featuring FTC Commissioner Julie Brill at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit 2012 in Washington, D.C. She openly discussed her views, and those of the FTC, regarding a soon-to-be-issued final Privacy Report.

Her key theme is that in updating their privacy framework, she has advocated the need to relook our notions of privacy, given the significant changes that have occurred in recent years, especially in terms of how people use personal devices and interact on the Internet.

She highlighted that these “are interesting times”. Her illustrative example was that today, “many people sleep more closely with their smartphones than they do with their spouses.” And that given this, for instance, should persistent identifiers such as those incorporated into phones, be considered PII?

She also suggested that they are looking at the question of whether the way that notice and choice are implemented today are effective in the new mobile world. For example, if a person needs to scroll through 10 screens of a privacy notice on a small phone screen, is that really an effective means of providing notice and gaining consent? She then commented that they think it would be important to look at “just in time” notice as a prospectively better way to handle privacy notice and consent today and going forward.

Another area discussed was data collection practices. She noted that the ability of data collectors to scrape personal information from social media sites has the implications of impacting how decisions are made relative to extending credit, employment and insurance; which fall within the realm of the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act). She see’s this as posing very serious issues and one’s that illustrate the types of harms that she is concerned about.

Looking forward to seeing the final report from the FTC. In another session, it was communicated that the FTC has become increasingly aggressive in pursuing their enforcement responsibilities relative to privacy issues and violations, so it will certainly be instructive watching their future actions.