Feds issue final 'Do Not Track' privacy recommendations
Welcome online protections or 'Big Brother' overreach?
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 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." ®
No "Choices", No "Options", No Tracking or Datamining ever.
When I click on the "Opt Out" button on an FCC Webpage it MUST work just like the Do Not Call Registry for telephones.
If I get a call from anyone who does not comply I get to sue the perpetrator. If I get tracked or get custom ads while online I should get to sue the perpetrator.
Re: No "Choices", No "Options", No Tracking or Datamining ever.
"...it MUST work just like the Do Not Call Registry for telephones."
You mean, "not at all?" - Do Not Call is weaker than a toothless tiger - a toothless tiger can still rake you with his claws. I receive (and report) numerous violations on a weekly basis, all on my cell phone, which was registered on the DNC list within an hour of my getting the number - and yet I constantly get:
* abandoned predictive dialer calls
* calls that "conveniently" have the required "name of company who called" given while the voice mail announcement is being given (so I never hear it)
* calls that invite my voice mail to "press 1 to stop these calls"
* calls that would require me to spend my money to call them back.
You may want a Do Not Track that works like Do Not Call.
I want a Do Not Track that works, period.
No Opt Out from Government Surveillance
It's ironic that the US government are so keen to protect its netizens from surveillance by private firms when its highly likely they are the worst offenders of all for mass snooping. It's received (perhaps not surprisingly) little mainstream media coverage (even The Register hasn't mentioned it), but NSA expert James Bamford has written in interested article in Wired about it. While the sources may have an axe to grind, NSA whisteblowers reveal that the agency is involved in (at the very least very dubious & possibly illegal) dragnet surveillance of all electronic communications data. They don't seem to be just recording who contacted who, but are actually scanning the contents of people's emails & search terms on Google. There seems to be a mania to record every type of possible transaction including financial records & even book purchases. Damn, they'll probably even make a note of this! Yet hardly anything ever appears in the newspapers. It's all left to fringe publications. GCHQ probably do the same.