Users’ online privacy is an issue that continues to remain in focus as more and more regulators and advocates require companies to adhere to data protection guidelines. Although the government has promised to release a bill that will protect consumers online, so far it remains only a project. Meanwhile the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has made the first step and released the first online privacy framework.
Following several issues and raising discontent from consumers with how companies manage their data online, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought to the table a set of online privacy guidelines. So far, FTC’s guidelines are the best we’ve got so far, but even theirs is in the phase of proposals.
For online users it has become clear that most companies have no idea or policy regarding matters such as don’t track, data security and overall privacy. But if the FTC’s set of guidelines will be approved, these matters will get implemented.
According to the FTC its privacy framework is the answer to what today’s online consumers want: a way to “continue to enjoy the riches of a thriving online and mobile marketplace without surrendering their privacy as the price of admission”.
Chairman Jon Leibowitz with the FTC said: “If companies adopt our final recommendations for best practices … they will be able to innovate and deliver creative new services that consumer can enjoy without sacrificing their privacy”.
From all the proposals in the FTC online privacy framework, one particular aspect pops out: the do not track legislation. Leibowitz said: “Do Not Track from our perspective certainly means ‘do not collect’ — not ‘do not advertise back’” and added that the legislation should “come to fruition by the end of the year” or else there’s going to be “a tsunami of support for Do Not Track legislation next Congress”.
Data brokers such as Experian and Acxiom are particularly targeted. These companies collect and place for sale information, a business which advocates argue leaves little control for users over that data.
FTC’s proposals have already received wide support from consumer privacy advocates. Jeffrey Chester, head of Center for Digital Democracy, said: “In its call for Congress to enact legislation to rein in the data broker industry, the F.T.C. has opened up an important new ‘front’ in the battle to protect consumer privacy.”