The Federal Trade Commission testified before congress this week on what it calls "Do Not Track Legislation". According to the FTC's web site, "The testimony describes the FTC’s efforts to protect consumer privacy for 40 years through law enforcement, education, and policy initiatives. It also provides highlights from the FTC staff’s new report on consumer privacy, released yesterday, and proposes a framework to promote privacy, transparency, business innovation, and consumer choice."
The commission suggests that tracking should be controlled at a user (likely browser) level, but could be enacted either via strict legislation or industry-supported self-regulation.
For the most part, the mechanisms utilized by web sites to track user activity are inherent in the browsers themselves, and have retained an element of user-control since their inception. The most common method is through the use of what is known as a "browser cookie"--a small piece of unique data saved by a web site into the the web browser for later retrieval. Although users have the ability to "flush" cookies from their browsers, or simply configure the browser not to accept cookies at all, these features tend to be buried well within the browser settings, and difficult for most people to understand. What's worse, enabling such privacy features often renders many web site features semi or non-functional.
The FTC is not calling for specific mandates at this time, but rather for comment.
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