A Preliminary FTC Staff Report on "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers"
In my opinion, the FTC's report on Protecting Consumer Privacy is a good account of the state of affairs in Internet tracking. If anything it underplays the actual and potential threat to privacy that exists today. A frighteningly complete and accurate profile of a person's private information, preferences, opinions and habits can be assembled by tracking networks that span many websites, and indeed tracking companies are assembling just such profiles. My views on this are as follows: 1) First, I believe I should have the right to prevent such an assemblage of private information about me without my explicit prior permission to do so. 2) It is only a matter of time until an unscrupulous company puts such private information to illegal, immoral or unethical use such as causes public outrage. 3) It is only a matter of time until such private information is stolen or leaked from a tracking company, seriously compromising a person's privacy and exposing them to embarrassment, fraud, harassment or even violent crime. Therefore, it is my strong opinion that a framework for DO NOT TRACK as discussed in the FTC's report should be established by law or enforceable regulation, with criminal penalties for infraction. Furthermore browsers and other media such as Flash should require the positive granting of site-specific permission by Opting-In, as opposed to the weak, poorly documented Opt-Out regime that exists now. The main counterarguments presented by opponents of Do NOT TRACK all run along the same line, that tracking enables website companies to sell valuable targeted advertizing, which by supporting their free-to-the-consumer business model, allows them to in turn provide valuable information, services and entertainment to the consumer. As logical and meritorious as this argument may be, it ignores the fact that a consumer's right to privacy has been traded away, often without their knowledge. And this right to privacy is more fundamental than any benefit that can be money-measured and compared in a trade-off. We consumers have the sense that we have a fundamental right to the privacy of information collected about us, and this right should remain unviolable unless we explicitly cede that right with a positive act of permission. The precedents are many, an example is the financial information we send to the IRS each year. The Federal Government has established an expectation of privacy among Americans. FCC, please help consumers protect the privacy of their personal information.