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FACTDROP: FTC releases final privacy report, says ‘Do Not Track’ mechanism may be available by end of year


FTC releases final privacy report, says ‘Do Not Track’ mechanism may be available by end of year

In recent years, lawmakers and advocacy groups have made increased efforts to protects users’ privacy online. Here are some cases that helped stoke the debate about tracking and privacy on the Web.

Πηγή: Washington Post
By Hayley Tsukayama
March 26 2012

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday outlined a framework for how companies should address consumer privacy, pledging that consumers will have “an easy to use and effective” “Do Not Track” option by the end of the year.

The FTC’s report comes a little over a month after the White House released a “privacy bill of rights” that called on companies to be more transparent about privacy and grant consumers greater access to their data but that stopped short of  backing a do not track rule.

The FTC goes further than the White House, saying that the commission will work with industry groups to “complete implementation” of “a Do Not Track”system to give consumers an easy way to stop online tracking.

“Although some companies have excellent privacy and data securities practices, industry as a whole must do better,” the report states.

The agency also called on companies to obtain “affirmative express consent” from consumers before using data collected for a different purpose and encourage Congress to consider baseline privacy legislation and for measures on data security and data brokers.

The FTC also reiterates its prior recommendations that Congress pass legislation to provide consumers with access to the data about them that is held by companies that compile data for marketing purposes.

The 73-page report focuses heavily on mobile data, noting that the “rapid growth of the mobile marketplace” has made it necessary for companies to put limits on data collection, use and disposal. According to a recent report from Nielsen, 43 percent of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone.

The commission called on companies to work to establish industry standards governing the use of mobile data, particularly for data that reveals a users’ location.

Commissioner Thomas Rosch dissented from the other commissioners in a 3-1 vote on the privacy report. Rosch said that while he agrees with much of what the agency released Monday, he disagrees with the commission’s approach to the framework, which focuses more on what consumers may deem “unfair” as opposed to actual deception perpetrated by companies.

“Unfairness is an elastic and elusive concept,” Rosch wrote, saying that it is difficult to determine how consumers feel about privacy.

He also said in his dissent that the recommendations were overly broad and would apply to “most information collection practices.”

“It would install ‘Big Brother’ as the watchdog over these practices not only in the online world but in the offline world,” Rosch wrote of the report.

While the FTC is not a rule-making but an enforcement agency and needs explicit authority from Congress to create new codes, Rosch said he believes that there should be no pretense that the report’s recommendations are “voluntary.”

Many firms, he wrote, may “feel obliged to comply with the ‘best practices’ or face the wrath of ‘the Commission’ or its staff.”

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