U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz said he expects companies to develop a mechanism by the end of the year that allows people to say they don’t want their online browsing behavior collected.
Leibowitz said the creation of a so-called do-not-track option for Internet users should help the online economy expand because it would build user trust in the Web.
“Online advertisers, major web browsers and an international consortium have all made great strides on do-not- track,” Leibowitz said in testimony today to a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “They recognize that do- not-track will help build consumer confidence in the Internet and that in turn will spur greater Internet commerce.”
In a broad privacy report issued March 26, the FTC called for industry to develop a voluntary mechanism to let consumers signal they don’t want their data collected by online companies. The report, which coincides with efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to advance online privacy protections, also called for privacy laws to better protect consumers and give them more control over their personal information.
“Collection of personal data has led to great benefits for consumers, and we all want those benefits to continue, but not at the expense of consumer privacy,” Leibowitz said at the hearing.
Leibowitz clarified that the mechanism needs to allow users to limit collection of personal data, not just provide the means to refuse targeted advertising.
He praised the Digital Advertising Alliance, an association of online advertising groups, which said last month it will develop a way to allow consumers to limit collection of personal data through Web-browser settings that companies including Google Inc. (GOOG:US), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and Mozilla Corp. have agreed to implement. Leibowitz also welcomed the work of the World Wide Web Consortium, an international group that is developing global standards for do-not-track technology.
“Three streams are coming together,” Leibowitz said. “They are all heading in the same direction: a persistent, effective, easy-to-use do-not-track option for consumers.”
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