FTC Urges Web Browser Companies to Give Consumers Privacy Options

March 27, 2012
By: Tracey E. Schelmetic

You know your browser spies on you...right?

As users merrily surf the Web, it collects a tidy pile of information about them: what sites they visit, how long they spend there, what they click on, what they download, what videos they view and what search terms they enter. While it’s typically riled privacy advocates and the paranoid, more Americans are paying attention.

And the Federal Trade Commission FTC (News - Alert)) has apparently had enough.

After receiving its long-awaited report on consumer privacy, the FTC now calls for designers’ Web browsers to behave and cease allowing Web sites to help themselves to sensitive data about users. The federal agency is also putting forth recommendations for the telecommunications industry to improve user privacy and self-regulation, according to Mashable.

In its recommendation, the agency commended the steps taken to protect consumer privacy so far, including “tools that consumers can use to signal that they do not want to be tracked," such as Google Chrome's “Incognito” mode and Firefox for Android (News - Alert), allowing users to switch into a “Do Not Track” mode.

But it pointed out the industry still has a long way to go.

“If companies adopt our final recommendations for best practices – and many of them already have – they will be able to innovate and deliver creative new services that consumers can enjoy without sacrificing their privacy,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz (News - Alert). “We are confident that consumers will have an easy-to-use and effective “Do Not Track” option by the end of the year, because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don't.”

Consumer Watchdog, a privacy advocacy group, praised the agencies’ “Do Not Track” efforts.

While right now the recommendations are just that – recommendations – companies would be wise to heed them. Unheeded warnings from the FTC have a way of turning into forcible regulations.




Edited by Braden Becker