FTC Presents Testimony to Congress on Internet Privacy

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The Federal Trade Commission's Associate Director for Credit Practices, David Medine today presented Commission testimony on Internet privacy to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property.

Over the past three years, the FTC has been examining the personal privacy and consumer protection issues raised by the collection and use of information about consumers as they use the Internet. A number of public workshops have been held by the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection. Throughout the workshops, the online industry has advocated self-regulation as the most efficient and effective means of creating online privacy protections. This month, FTC staff is conducting a survey of 1,200 commercial Web sites to determine the extent to which these sites, including sites directed to children, are disclosing how they collect and use personal information online. The Commission will be submitting a report to Congress in June on the effectiveness of self-regulatory approaches to protecting consumers' privacy online.

The Commission's testimony outlines the agency's focus on individual reference services, unsolicited commercial E-mail, and online information collection practices relating both to adults and children. It points to the Commission's efforts to encourage online firms to address consumer concerns through self-regulation. The testimony states that the "Commission recognizes the importance of the development of the Internet as a viable and safe marketplace for consumers." The FTC's efforts over the last few years have shown that the online marketplace likely will not flourish until sufficient privacy protections are implemented online. The report to Congress will disclose the results of the staff's Web survey and will analyze how much progress self-regulation has made in achieving effective online privacy protections for consumers, the testimony notes. "If such progress is inadequate, appropriate alternatives may need to be explored," the testimony concludes.

The Commission vote to authorize the testimony was 5-0.

Copies of the testimony as well as transcripts of FTC workshops on Internet privacy, a Commission staff report titled, "Consumer Privacy on the Global Information Infrastructure," a Commission report on individual reference services as well as public commentary submitted for the workshops and prior press releases on Internet privacy issues are available on the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center; 202-326-3128; TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

(FTC File No. 954 807)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Victoria Streitfeld
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
David Medine
Bureau of Consumer Protection