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FTC Endorses 'Do Not Track' Mechanism to Protect Consumers
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FTC Endorses 'Do Not Track' Mechanism to Protect Consumers

December 01, 2010
By Ed Silverstein
TMCnet Contributor

The Federal Trade Commission has endorsed implementing a “Do Not Track” mechanism so consumers can choose whether or not to allow the collection of data on their web searches and browsing.

The mechanism would likely take the form of a persistent setting on users’ browsers, according to a FTC statement released on Wednesday.

The FTC (News - Alert) says the placement of a persistent setting, similar to a cookie, on the consumer’s browser would show consumers’ choices about being tracked and receiving targeted ads.

 “Technological and business ingenuity have spawned a whole new online culture and vocabulary – email, IMs, apps and blogs – that consumers have come to expect and enjoy. The FTC wants to help ensure that the growing, changing, thriving information marketplace is built on a framework that promotes privacy, transparency, business innovation and consumer choice. We believe that’s what most Americans want as well,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz (News - Alert) said in a statement.

The FTC says in a detailed report that consumers should not have to read long, complex disclosures. To simplify things for consumers and businesses, companies should not have to get consent for select commonly accepted practices, says the FTC. The “Do Not Track” mechanism is one such simplified practice, says the FTC.

The FTC says industry efforts through some kind of self-regulation on such concerns “have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection.”

Leibowitz added that the FTC “will take action against companies that cross the line with consumer data and violate consumers’ privacy – especially when children and teens are involved.”

On Thursday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the Do Not Track issue, according to a report from TMCnet.

The FTC also recommends that companies should have a “privacy by design” approach, and implement privacy protections into daily practices. They also believe there should be reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of the data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy.

The FTC recommends companies also should implement privacy practices throughout their organizations and the transparency of information practices should be improved.

They believe consumers should have “reasonable access” to the data that companies maintain about them along with consumers being educated about commercial data practices.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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