F.T.C. Backs Plan to Honor Privacy of Online Users

In an article dated December 1, 2010, Edward Wyatt and Tanzina Vega of The New York Times report that the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's top consumer protection agency, is advocating a "do not track" plan for online consumers.  

According to the article, the FTC feels that the status quo — self-regulatory practices — have failed to protect the privacy needs of the consumer.  The FTC's proposed solution, "a broad framework for commercial use of Web consumer data," includes using a universal 'do not track' mechanism "that would essentially give consumers the type of control they gained over marketers with the national 'do not call' registry."

"'Our main concern is the sites and services that are connecting the dots between different times and places that a consumer is online and building a profile of what a consumer is doing.'"  

According to the article, "[m]any of the problems the [FTC] is trying to tackle involve third parties (a/k/a "data brokers") that use technology to surreptitiously follow a user around the Web, collecting data and then selling it, usually without the user's knowledge."

The opposition is staying its hand, for the moment.  Yet with billions of dollars at stake, online advertising companies and technology giants like Google and Microsoft, which track and collect data from online consumers in order to provide more focused advertisements, are not expected to approve the proposal in all respects.  Mike Zaneis, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said the online advertising industry "would suffer 'significant economic harm' if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was 'a high participation rate similar to that of do not call.'"  

"'If your goal is to have a red flashing icon that says, "Click here to opt out of targeting," and to incentivize people to opt out, then we don't share that goal.'"

The FTC's proposal also calls for Internet browser-manufacturers, such as Microsoft, Google and Apple to "adopt simpler, more transparent and streamlined ways of presenting consumers with their options rather than the 'long, incomprehensible privacy policies that consumers typically do not read, let alone understand.'"  Data brokers will be required to provide consumers with "reasonable access" to any data collected about them upon request.

Today (Thursday, December 2, 2010), the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing to examine the feasibility of a simple method of opting out of online tracking.

 

 

The full article can be found above, or here.  

The FTC's report and proposal can be found above, or here

 

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Authors

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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