December 1, 2010
WASHINGTON – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a promising report today on consumer privacy advocating for the implementation of strong protections for Americans’ online activity and urging Internet companies and other industries that handle personal information to create better privacy protections.
The FTC’s report describes how browsers and websites can employ improved privacy features such as simplified privacy notices, and endorses an important privacy feature known as a “do not track” list. A “do not track” list would allow consumers to opt out of having their online activity tracked, stored and shared with private companies for targeted advertising use. The FTC also advocates that Internet users be given a clearer understanding of how and when their data is being collected. The Commerce Department is expected to issue its own report on Internet privacy in the coming weeks.
The American Civil Liberties Union supports the creation of a “do not track” list as it would establish a barrier against unwarranted surveillance and targeting of Americans. The practice of tracking and collecting consumers’ online habits then aggregating that information with existing offline data allows for the creation of detailed profiles on every American. These profiles could then be shared with employers and the government. This type of surveillance infrastructure is a major invasion of privacy and may lead to the chilling of free speech and expression rights if consumers feel they should not visit certain web sites as their habits may be tracked.
The following can be attributed to Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel:
“We are very pleased to see the FTC argue for more rigorous privacy standards for Americans’ online activities. Day by day, Americans live more of their lives online, making purchases, paying bills and communicating with friends and loved ones, and Americans’ online habits should not be the fodder for companies’ advertising needs.
“The FTC’s endorsement of a ‘do not track list,’ in particular, would give Americans the chance to opt out of intrusive marketing tactics that violate their privacy and keep personal information out of the hands not only of marketers but also employers and the government.
“Congressional action is now needed. We hope the FTC’s report will spur Congress to pass better and stronger protections for Americans’ online privacy.”