FTC Report Suggests ‘Do Not Track’ Option

And you thought “Do Not Call” was cool. Meet “Do Not Track.”

A Federal Trade Commission report today suggests allowing consumers to decide whether or not their data can be collected as they move around online. It looks at the framework necessary to “balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services.”

Self-regulation in the industry just hasn’t cut it, the report says. The FTC will therefore make policy recommendations and “take action” against companies that violate consumer privacy “especially when children and teens are involved,” it quotes FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz saying.

Among the report’s recommendations are that companies start by making privacy part of their assumed operations and monitoring “privacy issues” on new products and services. And consumers get to make decisions about what to share beyond the “long, complicated disclosures that they often cannot find.” It also talks about information transparency, such as letting consumers see what information companies keep on them and also letting them compare competitors based on what they keep.

But a paidContent story says that for many, “the recommendations still do not go far enough.” It points out that the rules and their impact, which will span the online ad industry, depend on hearings in Congress to see if they’ll stick. The whole thing could mean some serious rethinking for the online ad industry, which has arguably benefited from the current self-policing rules.

It’s a conversation that’s been ongoing for awhile–a 2007 New York Times story points to a coalition of private groups’ request for a mandatory Internet do-not-track list.