The FTC was active in privacy and security related matters this week. The agency submitted a letter to the House Judiciary Committee related to a social media platform’s data sharing practices with third-parties. It also announced a multi-million dollar settlement with a software company over its data collection and selling practices. Additionally, this week’s updates include the FTC filing an administrative complaint against a major tax preparation company for its advertising and marketing tactics. All this, and more, after the jump.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Privacy and Security

  • FTC Chair Lina Khan submitted a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, in further response to a April 2023 letter requesting documents and information related to Twitter and the FTC’s investigation of potential third-party access to the information of Twitter users. The letter recounts the privacy and security concerns that arose at Twitter leading to the 2022 FTC consent decree (the “Order”) and some of the actions it has taken since the Order was issued to ensure that Twitter is complying with the Order. It also provides supplemental information regarding the FTC’s investigation of third-party access to Twitter user information and its review of the many terminations, layoffs, and resignations at Twitter.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Privacy and Security

  • The FTC announced a settlement with Avast Limited, a software provider, to pay $16.5 million settling allegations that the company and its subsidiaries sold and licensed web browsing data for advertising purposes despite promising that its products would protect consumers from online tracking. According to the complaint, since at least 2014, Avast allegedly collected consumers’ browsing information through browser extensions and antivirus software without informing these consumers that their browsing data was collected and sold to third-parties. The complaint also alleges that Avast failed to properly aggregate and anonymize consumers’ personal information and failed to prohibit some of its data buyers from re-identifying Avast users. In addition to monetary damages, the proposed order will prohibit Avast and its subsidiaries from misrepresenting how it uses the data it collects. The parties are also prohibited from selling browsing data and are required to obtain affirmative consent, delete data and model information, notify customers whose information was sold, and implement a privacy program. The statement of Chair Lina Khan joined by Commissioners Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya on the Avast Limited matter can be found here.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Advertising and Marketing

  • The FTC announced that it issued an administrative complaint against H&R Block, the tax preparation company, for allegedly unfair business practices and deceptive marketing practices related to its tax preparation products. According to the administrative complaint, H&R Block’s online tax filing products lead consumers into higher-cost products made for more complicated tax filings and when consumers tried to downgrade the product, they were faced with a series of time-consuming challenges. Additionally, the administrative complaint alleges that H&R Block engaged in deceptive advertising practices for a number of years, marketing its online tax preparation services as “free” when a number of consumers did not qualify for this service, which was limited to “simple returns.” The administrative complaint lists contemplated injunctive relief, which includes, but is not limited to, prohibitions on H&R Block’s downgrading practices, prohibitions on advertisements listing goods or services as “free”, and notification requirements for consumers eligible for relief.