Feeds

Feds issue final 'Do Not Track' privacy recommendations

Welcome online protections or 'Big Brother' overreach?

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

The US Federal Trade Commission has issued its final report on the "best practices" companies should put in place regarding the collection of consumer information.

"If companies adopt our final recommendations for best practices – and many of them already have – they will be able to innovate and deliver creative new services that consumers can enjoy without sacrificing their privacy," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement accompanying the release of the report, "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change".

"We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year," Leibowitz added, "because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don't."

The FTC's final recommendations, a follow-up to its draft report issued last December, don't have the force of law, but the commission urges Congress to enact legislation that does.

The recommendations in Monday's report focus on three core areas, which the FTC defines as Privacy by Design, Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers, and Greater Transparency.

The first of those three concepts recommends that privacy protections be built into online offerings. Companies should, the report contends, ensure that their products and services provide "reasonable" data security and protection of data accuracy, and that the collection and retention of consumers' data be limited.

"Simplified Choice," the FTC notes, means that consumers should be allowed to choose what data a company can share about their online activities, and with whom that data can be shared. In addition, companies should provide a Do Not Track option that is a "simple, easy way" for customers to control tracking and sharing of their online perigrinations.

The FTC's transparency recommendations not only suggest that companies clearly explain to customers what data they're collecting, but also provide access to that data so that customers can review what information has been collected about their online activities.

The commission states that there has been ongoing voluntary progress in online privacy, and that companies have begun to compete with one another on the provision of privacy. "In response to Google's decision to change its privacy policies to allow tracking of consumers across different Google products," the report notes, "Microsoft encouraged consumers to switch to Microsoft's more privacy-protective products and services."

That said, the FTC argues that "self-regulation has not gone far enough," and that "basic privacy concepts like transparency about the nature of companies' data practices and meaningful consumer control are absent."

In light of the lack of industry-wide privacy safeguards, the report calls on Congress to enact legislation that is "technologically neutral and sufficiently flexible," and that includes "civil penalties and other remedies" to be made available for use against companies that fail to protect consumer privacy.

As has become traditional in reports issued by Obama-administration commissions, the FTC's lone Republican, J. Thomas Rosch – who recently called upon Congress to cut the commission's budget – appended his dissent to the report, saying in part that its recommendations "would install 'Big Brother' as the watchdog over [information collection] practices not only in the online world but in the offline world." ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.