FTC Proposes "Do Not Track" Option For Web Browsing

Wary of surfing the web because you don’t want any of your information or browsing habits being shared with the world? The folks at the Federal Trade Commission apparently understand your concerns and have proposed new regulations that would let users decide which sites and advertisers can track their online behavior.

In its proposal for the “do not track” regulations, the FTC says that the current state of industry self-regulation has “failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection” for consumers.

From the NY Times:

Now, the trade commission hopes to adopt an approach that it calls “privacy by design,” where companies are required to build privacy protections into their everyday business practices. That approach would include retaining data on consumer preferences and online browsing activity only as long as needed and deleting data on a regular basis.

The FTC also wants companies to replace the “long, incomprehensible privacy policies that consumer typically do not read, let alone understand,” with simpler and shorter statements. The agency also says consumers should be given “reasonable access” to whatever data companies have collected about them.

It’s likely that the FTC would need Congressional approval to enact all the regulations it has proposed. The director of the agency’s bureau of consumer protection recently stated, “I do not think that under the FTC’s existing authority we could mandate unilaterally a system of ‘do not track,’… There are ways we could coax, cajole and charm industry in that direction.”

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will be discussing this very issue at a hearing tomorrow.

Agency Proposes ‘Do Not Track’ Option for Web Users [NY Times]