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Federal Trade Commission Privacy Report Backs Do Not Track, A Key Policy Goal Of Consumer Watchdog

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Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

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Federal Trade Commission Privacy Report Backs Do Not Track, A Key Policy Goal Of Consumer Watchdog

Agency Also Calls for Data Broker Legislation

SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog praised the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy report released today supporting a Do Not Track Mechanism that will help give people control of the collection and use of their personal data when they are online.

Consumer Watchdog has waged a two-year war to get Do Not Track to the top of the consumer privacy reform list. Tactics have ranged from a demonstration in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square to policy conferences the nonprofit, nonpartisan group sponsored in Washington.

“Those efforts are paying off. The FTC’s support of Do Not Track means that consumers should have a meaningful way to control the tracking of their online activities by the end of the year,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project.

The Commission’s call for legislation to provide control over data brokers is an important step, Consumer Watchdog said.

“Data brokers buy, compile and sell a wealth of highly personal information about you, but there’s no way to find out what they have or if it’s correct.  That’s why the FTC’s call for legislation in this area is so important,” said Simpson.

The FTC’s privacy framework is built on three principles:

- Privacy by Design – companies should build in consumers’ privacy protections at every stage in developing their products.
- Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers - companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom. This should include a Do Not Track mechanism.
- Greater Transparency – companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers’ information, and provide consumers access to the data collected about them.
“FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz got it right when he said as he released the report that nobody should put something on a consumer’s computer without their permission,” added Simpson.

“Do Not Track will give people more faith in the Internet,” said Simpson. “That will be a win-win for business and consumers.”

Simpson is an “invited expert” taking part in the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Tracking Protection Working Group, which is setting Internet standards for how a Do Not Track message would be sent and what the obligations would be of a site that receives the message.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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