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FTC Joins the Online Privacy Chorus

Nicole Ozer,
Technology & Civil Liberties Director, ACLU of Northern California
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December 1, 2010

Your online activities say a lot about you: what you like, where you go and even who you know. And companies are often eager to collect this kind of detailed information about you. So we’re pleased that the FTC has joined the chorus calling for companies and lawmakers to give us all greater control over our own personal information.

One of the key elements of the FTC’s proposal is a “do not track” list. This would allow us to opt out of online tracking, preventing companies from collecting information about the web sites and pages we visit. It’s almost impossible for anyone to manage all of the different layers of controls on all of the different online sites. That’s why it’s important to have a single, easy-to-use control over whether information about the web sites we visit can be collected and used.

The FTC also echoes our calls for more transparency and clearer explanations of when and how user information is collected and used by online companies. This will make it easier for you to understand exactly what it means to, say, run an app on Facebook (without having to take our Facebook quiz to find out) or to understand how your location will be shared with other people through a location-based service (which is often hard to understand, as our recent comparison of location-based service privacy practices [PDF] illustrates).

The FTC report helps highlight several of the problems that need to be solved. Now it’s time for Congress and companies to take the necessary steps to better protect online privacy. Demand Your dotRights by signing our petition for transparency and by pushing your lawmakers and online services to give you real control over your own personal information.

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