In a draft on privacy regulation, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that companies are slow to adopt privacy rules and that self-regulation may not be enough. Taking that a step further, the agency is recommending that companies add a “Do not track” option for users who want their browsing history more private; the option would either be built into browsers or embedded as an option in websites, and if turned on, would bar companies from collecting data about the user’s browsing patterns and history. Unfortunately, though, the FTC admits that it doesn’t have the authority to mandate such a practice without the aid of Congress, and perhaps Congress can grant agencies like the FTC some power over privacy regulations.
Such a universal mechanism could be accomplished by legislation or potentially through robust, enforceable self-regulation. The most practical method of providing uniform choice for online behavioral advertising would likely involve placing a setting similar to a persistent cookie on a consumer’s browser and conveying that setting to sites that the browser visits, to signal whether or not the consumer wants to be tracked or receive targeted advertisements. To be effective, there must be an enforceable requirement that sites honor those choices.
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