On October 28, 2021, Next Century Cities submitted a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to take action on protecting consumers’ privacy rights and providing more oversight related to online data collection and management. The letter underscored the rising importance of broadband access in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased use of web-based applications by everyday people. 

Bridging the digital divide and bringing more people online also requires an emphasis on protections and safety measures data that is collected, stored, packaged, and sold. 

NCC’s letter explored the relationship between required data collection and data collected for unclear and often profit-driven purposes. The latter’s motives often lead to greater user harm than benefit. As an organization dedicated to connecting every community, we are increasingly concerned about doing so with proper oversight, especially for communities that have been historically marginalized or harmed. In an increasingly digital society, users need assurance and transparency about how their personal information will be used online. 

The FTC has a history of working on privacy issues and specifically how privacy may impact individuals’ civil rights. The Commission must recommit to their work and start crafting a framework that examines every aspect of online data collection and associated processes. As stated in the letter, instituting a rulemaking would not only lead to clear, understandable rules to curb discriminatory or harmful practices but would also provide necessary guidance when state and local leaders begin to develop complementary regulations. 

Read the full letter from Next Century Cities here.

You can also view letters from our ally Free Press here and from members of the United States Senate here.