FTC on the growing war over web privacy

It seems just a matter of time until government regulators take strident steps concerning consumer privacy issues on the web, especially following the very public Google and Facebook user privacy scandals this year.

It seems just a matter of time until government regulators take strident steps concerning consumer privacy issues on the web, especially following the very public Google and Facebook user privacy scandals this year.

These companies, and others like it, are making bundles by selling and using the personal information they gather from their uses and selling it to marketers.

Now, making bundles of money isn't a bad thing, but the Federal Trade Commission wants to make sure stronger safeguards are in place to protect consumer privacy on the web.

The FTC issued a report suggesting a “Do Not Track” mechanism for consumers to make up their own minds about online tracking of their personal information. The report, which was approved 5-0 by the commission, wants opt-in and opt-out privacy controls and disclaimers to be simplified, as opposed to the epically long-winded legal disclaimers most of us don't read anyway.  

“Current privacy policies force consumers to bear too much burden in protecting their privacy,” the report says.

The report also said self-regulation on this matter has largely been a fiasco, and companies should think twice about crossing the government powers that be. The FTC “will take action against companies that cross the line with consumer data and violate consumer's privacy – especially when children and teens are involved,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

What comes next in the halls of public debate and policy on this issue is uncertain. But what is certain is that the Googles and Facebooks of this new digital world we live in aren't going away anytime soon. The debate over privacy on the web is really just beginning.

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