Magazine article Information Today

Privacy Concerns for the Web and Beyond

Magazine article Information Today

Privacy Concerns for the Web and Beyond

Article excerpt

There's been a flurry of activity recently over online privacy concerns. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce issued major reports with (differing) recommendations aimed at promoting consumer privacy online and offering frameworks for businesses and policymakers to follow. Several Congressional committees are also considering legislation to support online privacy. Many different agendas are involved, from consumer advocates and marketers to internet companies and federal regulators. It's about balancing consumer protection and commercial rights.

The FTC's report included a proposal to develop a national Do Not Track tool for internet users. The proposed framework encourages enterprises to integrate privacy protections into their daily business transactions, including collecting only the data that is needed and retaining that data only as long as is needed to complete a specific business practice, to dispose of data safely, and to ensure data accuracy in the process.

The Commerce Department's report calls for a Privacy Bill of Rights detailing a set of principles concerning the ways in which online companies collect and use personal information J for commercial purposes. It also recommends ' creating a privacy policy office in the Department of Commerce that would work with federal entities as well as the FTC and the Executive Office of the President.

But some companies are pursuing other options. Mozilla, maker of the free Firefox browser, released an alpha version of Privacy Icons designed to tell users (in a simple and straightforward way) how their data can be used by a website. While questions remain about sites that would refuse to use the icons, developers say that a future version of Firefox could display a warning icon for those sites.

We will have to see how this works. Technology usually moves faster than our ability to regulate it. Some people predict that as the new HTML5 code for the web is adopted, a new suite of capabilities will give marketers and advertisers access to more information about the online activities of users.

Concerns for Users of Smartphones and E-Readers

An investigative report from The Wall Street Journal explores the fact that application privacy isn't just a web or Facebook problem; the iPhone and Android phones can also leak personal data to apps. …

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