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December 6, 2010 / Matt Gerardi

FTC Looking to Protect Online Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission announced that it is backing a plan to protect the privacy of web users from unverified tracking of their browsing and buying habits. (New York Times)

“It is time for a ‘do not track’ mechanism,” said Jon Leibowitz, the FTC chairman, likening this new plan to the National Do Not Call Registry which began blocking telemarketers from making unsolicited calls to consumers as of 2004.

The commission will likely require Congressional action to enact the full vision of the plan which would involve a simple “do not track” registration that blocks tracking from unsolicited parties across the entirety of the Internet.

While that grand vision seems unreasonable in the near future, the FTC is hoping to enact some less sweeping changes to online tracking, including increasing transparency of data tracking by doing away with “long, incomprehensible privacy policies that consumers typically do not read, let alone understand” and giving consumers “reasonable access” to the information companies have collected regarding their browsing.

These regulations have major implications for advertising and tech companies.

Google is one company that would be impacted. Advertising makes up 99 percent of its revenues. Much of this is based on the company’s ability to track user data and surfing habits and use this information to serve up ads that are relevant to the user viewing them. This is a service that extends to third party websites.

It’s easy to see how this FTC plan could negatively effect Google’s business but the tech giant is supportive of, at least some of, the commission’s efforts. Google said, “We agree with the F.T.C. that people should be able to understand what information they share and how it’s used. That’s why we simplified our privacy policies earlier this year, offer control through our privacy tools, and explain our approach to privacy in plain language and through YouTube videos in our privacy center.” (New York Times)


One Comment

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  1. Lew / Dec 9 2010 9:38 pm

    Excellent post. This move certainly seems to be in favor of the individual user.

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