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Stage Set For Showdown on Online Privacy

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FTC director of the bureau of consumer protection David C. Vladeck

David C. Vladeck of the FTC says the agency would keep its focus on enforcing the law.

Credit: Daniel Rosenbaum / The New York Times

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Commerce Department are planning to release separate and possibly conflicting reports regarding online privacy. Commerce favors letting the industry regulate itself, according to department officials, while the FTC prefers a stricter standard that requires a "do not track" option on a Web site or browser. "I hope they realize that what is good for consumers is ultimately good for business," says the Consumer Federation of America's Susan Grant.

The major online companies prefer that the industry continue to regulate itself. "Targeted ads are helpful and ad competition is helpful," says Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt.

The Obama administration wants to protect consumers while also making U.S. companies more competitive in the world market. The White House also wants to ensure that any restrictions do not impede law enforcement and national security efforts.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have recently contacted online companies to account for intrusions and consumer privacy breaches. A "do not track" system could be built into a Web browser or function as a plug-in, instructing websites, content providers, and advertisers that the user does not want to be tracked, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Lee Tien.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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