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Feds propose 'do not track' option for net surfers

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The Federal Trade Commission recommended consumers be given a “do not track” option that prevents websites and advertisers from compiling data about their web-browsing habits.

In a report published Wednesday, the consumer watchdog agency said the privacy mechanism should come in the form of a cookie or other persistent web browser setting. It would give people a simple way to opt out targeted advertising campaigns that rely on detailed lists of the websites they view.

The recommendations come as online publishers “have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection,” the report, which was unanimously approved by the FTC's five commissioners, stated.

The do not track option is part of what the report called “privacy by design,” in which consumers are given the ability to easily prevent their online habits from being collected and indefinitely stored. Under such a plan, advertisers would be required to delete data on a regular basis.

They would also be required to spell out privacy options in a streamlined and universal format rather than the typical “long, incomprehensible privacy policies that consumer typically do not read, let alone understand.”

A PDF of the report, which consumers have two months to comment on, is here. ®

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