Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Stage Set for Showdown on Online Privacy"

This New York Times article (November 9, 2010) describes a potential clash between the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Commerce Department over regulating online privacy.

Apparently the FTC's stance is pro-privacy (a.k.a., pro-consumer, pro-individual, pro-people) while the Commerce Department's stance is pro-business.

The FTC is thinking about requiring a "do not track" feature, much like the "do not call" lists that many Americans gratefully started using a few years ago to cut down - nearly eliminate, in my experience - telemarketing calls. The Internet equivalent would allow users to opt out of being tracked, presumably either one Web site at a time or globally. I'd like to see this implemented. There are sites where I appreciate being tracked;, for example, gives me useful suggestions by tracking my preferences over time, and wisely or foolishly I trust Amazon with that information.

The argument from business and the Commerce Department will be that such protections are too costly and will slow economic expansion. Some would characterize this as a battle between individual rights and commercial greed. I don't attribute greed to corporations; they are intended to make money and are generally well-designed to do so. It would be foolish of them not to argue their point. But I hope privacy wins out.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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