EPIC battling for FTC records
Tuesday October 12 04:36 PM EDT

Lisa M. Bowman, ZDNet

A privacy advocacy group is asking a federal judge to intervene in its attempts to get the Federal Trade Commission to turn over records of consumer complaints about online invasions of privacy.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the FTC has illegally withheld the records.

EPIC first requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act in June. The FTC did not respond to the request in the amount of time required by law.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency has 20 working days to respond to information request. But according to EPIC legal counsel David Sobel, the FTC commented during telephone calls that it doesn't have a system for tracking such complaints. In the end, said Sobel, the agency failed to turn over any records. The FTC was not immediately available for comment.

Is the FTC looking out for consumers? Privacy has become a concern because the Web has made it easier for companies to gather people's personal information and track them without their knowledge. The FTC has indicated a high level of concern with such complaints.

Sobel said EPIC merely wants to learn how the agency responds when it hears that someone's privacy rights have been violated.

"We think there ought to be some public oversight," he said.

Sobel said Tuesday's filing was prompted in part by an FTC announcement that it plans to fast-track privacy complaints referred to it by agencies such as TRUSTe. Sobel said that statement made him wonder what the agency has been doing with privacy complaints until now. "We don't think they do much with such complaints, but maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised," he said.

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