Internet companies and other businesses track which websites people visit and what they do on those sites. Then they sell these tracking data to advertisers who use the information to pitch products to specific individuals. Although online tracking can help consumers see online ads that more likely match their preferences, the practice also raises obvious privacy concerns.
The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011 (H.R. 654), introduced last month by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate companies’ collection and use of personal information about internet users.
The bill follows a December 2010 report issued by FTC staff that found companies increasing their collection and use of personal information, with individual privacy controls becoming less effective. The FTC proposed three regulatory strategies for protecting personal information. First, companies should train their employees on privacy concerns and take those concerns into account in product marketing decisions. Second, companies should provide consumers with the opportunity to opt out of any collection of their personal data. Third, companies should provide consumers with clearer privacy notices.
Image of Federal Trade Commission building by Flickr user mulaohu, and used under a Creative Commons license.