FTC Endorses "Do Not Track" Information Control Regime for the Internetby Adam Thierer, Technology Liberation Front
Dec. 01, 2010
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This morning, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its eagerly-awaited Preliminary FTC Staff Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers. As expected, the agency has generally endorsed an expanded regulatory regime to govern online data collection and advertising efforts in the name of protecting consumer privacy. More specifically, the agency endorsed a so-called “Do Not Track” mechanism that would supposedly help consumers block unwanted data collection or advertising. Here’s how the agency describes it:
Such a universal mechanism could be accomplished by legislation or potentially through robust, enforceable self-regulation. The most practical method of providing uniform choice for online behavioral advertising would likely involve placing a setting similar to a persistent cookie on a consumer's browser and conveying that setting to sites that the browser visits, to signal whether or not the consumer wants to be tracked or receive targeted advertisements. To be effective, there must be an enforceable requirement that sites honor those choices. (p. 66)I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to say here about the issue in coming weeks and months (comments on the FTC report are due by Jan. 31), but we’ve already commented on this proposal here before. See 1, 2, 3. To briefly summarize a few of those concerns: