On February 28, the FTC and CFPB jointly issued a request for information seeking public input about background screening processes in the rental housing market. The agencies are interested in receiving comments regarding the use of “algorithms, automated decision-making, artificial intelligence, or similar technology . . . in the tenant screening process” as they seek to identify practices leading to unfair housing decisions for potential tenants. Comments can be submitted at Regulations.gov for 90 days.

The Commissioners of the FTC have released a joint statement regarding Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical. The statement acknowledges both companies’ representations that they will not share consumers’ “personal health information” for marketing purposes unless they receive clear consent, but notes that the companies should also clarify how they will use protected health information and patient data beyond health care purposes. Commissioner Bedoya and Commissioner Slaughter issued a separate statement highlighting the shortcomings of U.S. privacy laws and the inapplicability of the HIPAA Privacy Rule to de-identified health data.

The FTC published a blog post cautioning marketers to be more deliberate in the advertising of artificial intelligence. Stressing the ambiguous definition of “artificial intelligence,” the post posits that the term has become a hot marketing term vulnerable to overuse and abuse. The post advises marketers that the FTC is on the lookout for “false or unsubstantiated claims about a product’s efficacy” and presents a set of questions for consideration in advertising decisions.

The European Commission has launched a consultation to evaluate funding options for upgrades to the Internet infrastructure needed to ensure capable handling of emerging transformative technologies. The Commission appears to be receptive to the telecommunication industry’s proposal that major tech companies that generate the most traffic should make a significant financial contribution. There is still the remaining question of determining the threshold for what qualifies as a sufficiently large amount of traffic generated.

The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania released a report analyzing consumer awareness of companies’ use of their data. The report found that a large portion of Americans do not know how companies use their data, believe they have little control over such use, and are frustrated by the perceived corporate control of their digital lives. The report seeks to suggest policies that would allow companies to continue their use of consumer data while keeping in mind its finding that “informed consent at scale is a myth.”

Grocery stores are harvesting shopper data, “enriching” it with more data from third-party brokers, and selling the resulting information to consumer brands for targeted advertising. Kroger and Albertsons, two of the largest supermarket chains in the U.S., claim to share only de-identified or aggregated data. However, it is alarmingly easy to re-identify specific shoppers with just a few variables, which is especially concerning as supermarkets are expanding their selection of products to include health and medical products, which may reveal sensitive private information.

The Italian Data Protection Authority (GPDP) decided that the use of risk stratification algorithms in treating patients is not a part of routine healthcare and that explicit consent of the data subject is required.

(Compiled by Student Fellow Jacob Park)