The Internet changed the way the world works, and the federal government is looking to change the way Internet companies work.
Data tracking of consumer online usage is big business for Internet companies selling data to businesses in search of target markets. But such “big brother” tactics do not always sit well with consumers.
In response to public outcries, U.S. regulators are pushing Internet companies to put in place by the end of the year a “Do Not Track” system that would give consumers more control over their personal data online, according to a report released on March 26.
The Federal Trade Commission’s final report on privacy recommendations relies mostly on the Internet industry voluntarily adopting best practices, something privacy advocates claim won’t work.
The report is in response to public concern over how Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter collect and trade detailed information concerning their users’ online activities and real-life identities.
The report calls on Congress to pass broad privacy legislation as well, which would allow consumers to see how their online data is collected, used and sold, and give the ability to stop such practices.
Some privacy advocates are disappointed in the FTC’s call for voluntary practices.
“The commission’s overall support for industry self-regulation is disappointing, and reveals a FTC still too often constrained from effectively protecting the public,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Reuters.
The FTC is limited in its ability to write rules, and is forced to lean on Internet companies to adopt tougher internal privacy policies. But while the FTC cannot make the rules, it does have the authority to punish companies that violate their own policies or engage in deceptive practices.
The report urges Internet companies to follow through on pledges to implement a “Do Not Track” system that would let consumers click a button on their Internet browsers to ensure their data is not being collected.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says pressure from lawmakers to implement tougher privacy provisions will move the Internet industry in the right direction.
“We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don’t,” Leibowitz told Reuters.
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