FTC announces right to privacy principles


The Federal Trade Commission today released a report outlining principles designed to encourage   companies to respect  consumers’ right to privacy pertaining to Internet use.

In releasing the report, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz encouraged companies to embrace three principles:

“First, incorporate privacy protections into products as they are developed “ that is, privacy by design;

Second, offer consumers choice about how their data is collected and used; and

Third, provide more transparency “ that is, better explanations to consumers about how their data is handled by companies. ”

The FTC report stopped short of calling for government-mandated  do-not-track legislation, but implied industry should draft regulations.  Leibowitz said in a release, “We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don’t.”

Further, Leibowitz asked Congress to consider “baseline privacy legislation” as well as regulations for  addressing data security and data brokers. Companies collecting data from fewer than 5,000 consumers a year would be exempt.

Privacy  best practices  are needed today because technology has made possible what in previous eras wasn’t anticipated and some companies are taking full advantage of the new capabilities. “Justice [Louis]  Brandeis could not have imagined phones that keep track of where we are going, search engines that predict what we re thinking, advertisers that monitor what we re reading, and data brokers who maintain dossiers of every who, what, where, when and how of our lives.  But he knew that, when technology changes dramatically, consumers need privacy protections that update just as quickly.  So we issue our report today to ensure that, online and off, the right to privacy, that `right most valued by civilized men,’ remains as relevant and robust to Americans in the 21st  century as it was nearly 100 years ago,” Leibowitz said in the statement.

According to the FTC’s news release on the report, the commission will focus on:

Getting a do-not-track system implemented;

Encouraging improved privacy protections for mobile services;

Asking data brokers to be more transparent in how they collect and use consumer data as well as providing consumers with choices in those uses;

Evaluating privacy concerns regarding the way large-platform providers, such as Internet Service Providers, track users;

Developing industry-specific privacy codes of conduct that could be subject to  FTC enforcement.

For more information, visit http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/03/privacyframework.shtm