FTC “Disappointed” – Bad News For Internet Browsers?

When I was a kid, there was nothing worse than having my dad say he was disappointed. Except for maybe the consequences that followed. So the Internet browser industry must have that same feeling in light of the report the Federal Trade Commission issued this week. The report concerns the voluntary efforts by the industry to adopt measures to protect consumer privacy and to notify consumers about how the browser services use and distribute personal information. In it, the FTC notes that “self-regulations of privacy has not worked adequately and is not working adequately for American consumers.” A big issue is how conspicuously the notice about data use should be posted. Every browser and search engine tells its users about its policies – so long as the user wants to wade through the legalese laden privacy policy. Raise your hand if you’ve actually read one. (Am I the only one?) Where this might be heading is a “do not track” option, similar to the “do not call” law for telemarketers. The Internet advertising industry is not a big fan, and for an understandable reason. Services like Google make big bucks collecting and selling this information. If regulations get adopted that make it too easy for consumers to opt out, their business model is at risk. Although a majority of the commission favors some sort of mandatory “do not track” mechanism, it appear the FTC doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally require it. SO we’ll have to see if Congress wades in. Should be interesting.