I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me…And I Have No Privacy!

This line from the R&B artist, Rockwell‘s 1984 hit, Somebody’s Watching Me, is how many people feel today in the internet age. To help with this, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s chief privacy policy and enforcement agency, issued a report setting forth practices for businesses to implement to protect the privacy of American consumers and give them greater control over the collection and use of their personal data.

The report calls on companies handling consumer data to implement the following recommendations for protecting consumer privacy –

Privacy by Design – companies should build in consumers’ privacy protections at every stage in developing their products. These include reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy;

Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers – companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom. This should include a Do-Not-Track mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities.

Greater Transparency – companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers’ information, and provide consumers access to the data collected about them.

Over the course of the next year, the FTC staff will work to encourage consumer privacy protections by focusing on the following action items:

Do-Not-Track – The Commission will work with both the Digital Advertising Alliance and World Wide Web Consortium to complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system for web vendors.

Mobile – The FTC urges companies offering mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including disclosures.

Data Brokers – The Commission calls on data brokers to make their operations more transparent by creating a centralized website to identify themselves, and to disclose how they collect and use consumer data.

Promoting Enforceable Self-Regulatory Codes – The FTC will work with the Department of Commerce and stakeholders to develop industry-specific codes of conduct. To the extent that strong privacy codes are developed, when companies adhere to these codes, the FTC will take that into account in its law enforcement efforts. If companies do not honor the codes they sign up for, they could be subject to FTC enforcement actions.

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