The Federal Trade Commission testified today before the Senate Committee on Commerce about its efforts to protect consumer privacy through enforcement, education, and policy initiatives like its recent preliminary privacy report.
The report proposes a framework to balance consumer privacy with innovation by: 1) building privacy protections into everyday business practices (“privacy-by-design”); 2) simplifying privacy choices for consumers; and 3)improving transparency with clearer, shorter privacy notices.
The FTC told Congress that companies have made progress in implementing Do Not Track, an option proposed last December by the agency that would allow people to opt out of having their Internet browsing tracked by third parties. The testimony noted that two of the major Internet browsers – Microsoft and Mozilla – “have recently announced the development of new choice mechanisms for online behavioral advertising that seek to provide increased transparency, greater consumer control, and improved ease of use.”
“Do Not Track is no longer just a concept, it is becoming a reality,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
“It’s encouraging to see companies responding positively to our call for more consumer choice about their online privacy.”
The testimony notes that people may want to opt out of more than targeted ads. They may not want their browsing habits used for other purposes, including by possible employers or insurers. An effective Do Not Track system would go beyond simply opting consumers out of receiving targeted advertisements; it would opt them out of having their behavior tracked online.
According to the testimony, five issues should be considered for any Do Not Track option :
*it should be implemented universally, so consumers do not have to opt out as they go from site to site;
*the opt-out mechanism should be easy to find and easy to use;
*any choices offered should be persistent and should not be deleted if, for example, consumers clear their cookies or update their browsers;
*it should be effective and enforceable; and
*it should let consumers opt out of being tracked for reasons other than commonly accepted uses, such as fraud prevention.