FTC Recommends to a ‘Do Not Track’ Tool on the Internet

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on December 7, 2010


The Federal Trade Commission released a privacy report last week that proposes the creation of a "Do Not Track" tool for the Internet, which would enable people to prevent marketers from tracking their web browsing. The preliminary report titled, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers,” was presented to Congress, and proposes a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services. Included are several ideas aimed at helping make it easier for consumers to understand what information is being collected and used about them; guidelines that would prevent third-parties from collecting sensitive information about users such health and financial data; and require greater safeguards around practices like deep packet inspection -- the peering of Internet service providers into user activity.

This report includes testimony and research from many TAP academics, including Lorrie Faith Cranor, Chris Hoofnagle, Joseph Turow, Deirdre Mulligan, and Anita Allen. In addition to these scholars participating in the round-table discussions that the FTC hosted over the past year, some of their articles were also cited in the report:

  • The Cost of Reading Privacy Policies by Lorrie Faith Cranor and Aleecia M. MacDonald pose the question: if website users were to read the privacy policy for each site they visit just once a year, what would their time be worth?

Introducing the report, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said: “Technological and business ingenuity have spawned a whole new online culture and vocabulary – email, IMs, apps and blogs – that consumers have come to expect and enjoy. The FTC wants to help ensure that the growing, changing, thriving information marketplace is built on a framework that promotes privacy, transparency, business innovation and consumer choice. We believe that’s what most Americans want as well.”