Jeffrey Chester

Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy

Jeff Chester is Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), a Washington, DC nonprofit. CDD is one of the leading NGOs advocating for consumers on digital privacy and consumer protection issues. Founded in 1991, CDD (then known as the Center for Media Education) led the campaign for the enactment of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, 1998). During the 1990’s it also played a prominent role in such issues as open access/network neutrality, diversity of media ownership, and the development of the FCC’s “E-Rate” funding to ensure that schools and libraries had the resources to offer Internet services.

Since 2003, CDD has helped place digital privacy on the Federal Trade Commission’s policy agenda. Through a series of reports and formal complaints endorsed by many consumer groups on such topics as online behavioral advertising (OBA), mobile marketing, social media, and other digital marketing practices, CDD successfully engaged the commission to begin addressing unfair and deceptive practices arising from online advertising. Recently, CDD’s two-year investigation into the little-known use of so-called “e-Scores,” which are used to covertly evaluate the financial worthiness of consumers online, led to a major 2012 New York Times story and work on this issue at the FTC. CDD’s two-and-a-half-year effort to strengthen COPPA’s privacy protections for children under 13 resulted in a groundbreaking decision by the FTC in December 2012, in which the commission ruled—for the first time—that “cookies,” geo-location data, and other “persistent identifiers” are to be considered “personally identifiable information” (in the context of online services targeting children). By providing an array of information and analysis to such news outlets as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR, and New York Times, CDD also spurred press coverage of digital privacy and its impact on consumer finances and health.

A former investigative reporter, Jeff Chester is the author of Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy (The New Press, 2007). He was named “Domestic Privacy Champion” in 2011 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. CDD is a member of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD).  Jeff is the current U.S. co-chair of TACD’s Information Society (Infosoc) group.