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Privacy rules from the FTC

Marc Sanchez Mar 27, 2012

When it comes to protecting your privacy, the Federal Trade Commission, not only, wants its rules to be carefully considered, it wants Congress to put laws into place. Yesterday the FTC issued a final report on privacy, with the long-winded title: “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations For Businesses and Policymakers.” The rules cast a wide net over the ever-increasing data trails we leave and tracking that can occur in our digital lives.

The New York Times describes the interested parties:

On one side of the debate are data brokers like Experian and Acxiom, which collect and sell information, and the huge ecosystem of technology and online advertising companies — including Google, Microsoft and Facebook — that target consumers based on their personal preferences.
On the other side are consumer groups and privacy advocates that are concerned about the volume of data being collected and how little control consumers have over that information.

The FTC says if companies do not comply with the report’s “do not track” provision by the end of the year, which is when users are given an option to browse the Web anonymously, it will ask Congress to make “do not track” mandatory. In other words, don’t make me call your father.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC is looking beyond the Web too:

The agency also for the first time turned its attention to offline data brokers—which buy and sell names, addresses and other personal information—calling on them to create a centralized website providing consumers with better access to their data. The agency also wants legislation requiring data brokers to give consumers the right to see and make corrections to their information.

Finally, All Things D breaks down the five major points of the report:

Do Not Track: This is probably the furthest along. Browser vendors are now offering do-not-track options for consumers to limit data collection, the Digital Advertising Alliance is committed to respecting them, and standards bodies are working to standardize.

Mobile: The FTC wants to make mobile privacy protections “short, effective and accessible to consumers on small screens.”

Data Brokers: This is a bigger one. The FTC wants a centralized Web site where data brokers identify themselves and disclose how they collect data. It also supports Congress’s efforts to give consumers access to data about them held by brokers.

Comprehensive Tracking: The FTC is concerned about ISPs, operating systems, browsers and social networks comprehensively tracking users’ online activities, but it won’t address this until a public workshop in the second half of this year.

Enforcing Self-Regulatory Codes: The FTC said it will help enforce industry-specific codes of conduct.

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