FTC online privacy report endorses “Do-Not-Track” mechanism for Web browsers

The Federal Trade Commission released an online privacy report today that will reshape how companies, consumers and businesses interact on the Internet. The agency will take questions from reporters at 1 PM EST and from the public on Twitter in its first Twitter chat at 3 PM EST. The recommendation that “companies should adopt a ‘privacy by design’ approach by building privacy protections into their everyday business practices” is a key direction to every startup or Global 1000 corporation that comes under the FTC’s purview as the nation’s top consumer protection regulator.

The new FTC privacy report proposes a framework that would “balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services,” according to the agency’s statement, and recommends the implementation of a “Do Not Track” mechanism, which the agency describes as “a persistent setting on consumers’ browsers – so consumers can choose whether to allow the collection of data regarding their online searching and browsing activities.”

“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,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The report states that industry efforts to address privacy through self-regulation “have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection.” The framework outlined in the report is designed to reduce the burdens on consumers and businesses.

“This proposal is intended to inform policymakers, including Congress, as they develop solutions, policies, and potential laws governing privacy, and guide and motivate industry as it develops more robust and effective best practices and self-regulatory guidelines,” according to the report, which is titled, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers.”

“Self-regulation has not kept pace with technology,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, speaking this morning about the proposed online privacy rules. “We have to simplify consumer choice and ‘do not track’ will achieve that goal,” he said. “I don’t think that under the FTC authority we could unilaterally mandate ‘do not track.'”

One of the nation’s top technology policy advocates approved. “The FTC report hits all the right notes. It sets out a modern and forward looking framework for privacy protection that moves beyond a narrow focus on notice and choice toward a full set of fair information practices and accountability measures,” said Center for Democracy and Technology president Leslie Harris. “The FTC has provided the blueprint. Now it is time for Congress and industry to follow suit.”

“We are very pleased to see the FTC exerting strong leadership on privacy,” said CDT Privacy Project Director Justin Brookman. “This report should bolster efforts to enact a privacy bill next Congress. Its recommendations are consistent with what is being discussed on the Hill.”

In a novel move, the FTC tweeted out “key points” from the report, embedded below, using @FTCGov.

“FTC proposes new framework 2 guide policymakers & industry as they develop legislation & other solutions. Self-regulation on privacy has been too slow. Important privacy choices should be presented in relevant context, not buried in privacy policy. Baseline protections of FTC’s proposed framework include reasonable security & accuracy, confidence that data collected or kept only 4 legitimate needs & privacy considered at every stage of product development. Privacy notices should be clearer, shorter & more standardized to better understand privacy practices & promote accountability. Consumers should have reasonable access to data upon request. Commission supports a more uniform mechanism for behavioral advertising: a so-called “Do Not Track”. Do Not Track could signal consumer’s choices about being tracked & receiving targeted ads.”

Below are the prepared remarks of the FTC chairman, followed by a liveblog of the press call. Audio of the FTC online privacy press call is available as an MP3.

FTC Chairman Privacy Report Remarks

FTC Online Privacy Report

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


Should the White House be spending time making animated GIFs?

Earlier today, however, a mechanical engineer named Claudio Ibarra commented on a Google+ thread that he thought that the animated GIF was a “waste.”

Beware openwashing. Question secrecy. Acknowledge ideology.

You could spend a long day listing all of the organizations or individuals who are putting government data online, from Carl Malamud to open government activists in Brazil, Africa or Canada.

What is the ROI of open government?

Putting a dollar value on clean water, stable markets, the quality of schooling or access to the judiciary is no easy task. Each of these elements of society, however, are to some extent related to and enabled by open government. If we think about how the fundamental democratic principles established centuries ago extend today purely […]

Cameras in the courtroom: Will SCOTUS ever go live online?

In an age where setting up a livestream to the Web and the rest of the networked world is as easy as holding up a smartphone and making a few taps, the United States Supreme Court appears more uniformly opposed to adding cameras in the courtroom than ever.

Samantha Power: OGP is President Obama’s signature governance initiative

On January 10th, 2013, the OpenGov Hub officially launched in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub has similarities to incubators and accelerators, in terms of physically housing different organizations in one location, but focuses on scaling open government and building community, as opposed to scaling a startup and building a business. Samantha Power, special assistant to […]

Civic app for finding flu shots goes viral

The 2012-2013 influenza season has been a bad one, with flu reaching epidemic levels in the United States.

Open Government Partnership hosts regional meeting in Chile

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has released statistics on its first 16 months since its historic launch in New York City, collected together in the infographic embedded below. This week, Open government leaders are meeting in Chile to discuss the formal addition of Argentina to the partnership and the national plans that Latin American countries […]

African News Challenge funds data journalism and open government tech

The post-industrial future of journalism is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. The same trends changing journalism and society have the potential to create significant social change throughout the African continent, as states moves from conditions of information scarcity to abundance. That reality was clear on my recent trip to Africa, where I […]

Election 2012: A #SocialElection Driven By The Data

Social media was a bigger part of the election season of 2012 than ever before, from the enormous volume of Facebook updates and tweets to memes during the Presidential debates to public awareness of what the campaigns were doing there in popular culture. Facebook may even have booted President Obama’s vote tally.

PollWatchUSA enables anyone with a smartphone to act as a poll monitor

Pollwatch, a mobile application that enabled crowdsourced poll monitoring, has launched a final version at pollwatch.us, just in time for Election Day 2012. The initial iteration of the app was conceived, developed and demonstrated at the hackathon at the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City.


Follow GovFresh