The Federal Trade Commission has made a potentially far-reaching proposal that would give web users the option of shielding personal information from advertisers, retailers and other companies while browsing the Internet.
The commission favored giving consumers a simple mechanism for disallowing data gathering. To do that, the FTC recommended adding a button to browsers that would activate technology to prevent people from being tracked or receiving targeted advertising. The proposal would be an alternative to current browser privacy settings, which a recent study by Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon found inadequate to shield people's viewing habits.
The commission's proposed privacy framework would have companies build consumer privacy protection into every stage of development of products and services. In addition, organizations would offer a clearly defined no-tracking option at the time a consumer is making a decision that would set data gathering in motion. Finally, companies would increase transparency of their data practices through clearer, shorter and more standardized privacy notices and by providing access to consumer data they maintain.
The FTC does not have the authority to require companies to follow its framework, much of which would require an act of Congress.