FTC settles with tech companies, NFL teams over privacy standards

The Federal Trade Commission has settled with 12 companies that were accused of falsely claiming they participate in a data-sharing agreement with the European Union.

According to the FTC, the companies falsely claimed that they abided by the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement, which allows U.S. companies to process data from European citizens in compliance with European law.

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The 12 companies that have settled with the agency include three NFL teams — the Atlanta Falcons, the Tennessee Titans and the Denver Broncos — and Internet companies such as peer-to-peer provider BitTorrent and Internet provider Level 3 Communications, the agency announced Tuesday.

According to the agency, the companies said that they had been certified as complying with the Safe Harbor agreement but had let their certifications expire.

“This does not necessarily mean that the company committed any substantive violations of the privacy principles of the Safe Harbor” agreement — which include notifying users of data practices and securing user data — according to the FTC.

As a result of the settlements, the 12 companies are prohibited from misrepresenting their participation in privacy frameworks like the Safe Harbor agreement. The proposed settlements are open for public comment for 30 days.

“Enforcement of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework is a Commission priority,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. 

“These twelve cases help ensure the integrity of the Safe Harbor Framework and send the signal to companies that they cannot falsely claim participation in the program.”

The Safe Harbor agreement has come under scrutiny from EU officials after last year’s revelations that the National Security Agency was requiring Internet companies to hand over data about their users.