We Need FTC to Protect Privacy. Privacy Groups Should Be Calling for Real Action–not Industry Friendly “Workshops”

My organization and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have asked the Federal Trade Commission to swiftly act and protect our privacy online. Last November, we filed a lengthy complaint asking for an intervention to stop behavioral targeting [pdf from Doubleclick] and associated spyware. But it seems that some groups aren’t that interested in action. They want the industry bigshots (who may be their funders) to come into the FTC and agree on “best practices.” That will likely mean no real privacy protection. Here’s the excerpt from a CNET story:

“The CDT has urged the FTC to hold a workshop on behavioral targeting to set best practices in the industry and get players like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to agree on them. The organization wants to ensure that people have control in the event that these companies begin to merge consumer information from search and Web-surfing records to personalize ads.”

Privacy groups need to demand that the FTC finish its investigation (it launched one last November as a result of our complaint). We have provided the FTC with so much additional information, they should be able to act by now. Workshops are a delaying tactic designed to help out the special interests. If you want to see just a small fraction of what we’ve sent the FTC investigative team, go to adwatch.

PS: Here’s the blog post from the Center for Democracy and Technology on its request for a FTC workshop. Read its letter to the FTC. Then ask yourself. Shouldn’t public interest groups identify in such a letter the companies which fund them and engage in behavioral targeting? Shouldn’t they acknowledge that one of their key supporters, Microsoft, is the subject of a related complaint now before the FTC? Follow the money and the data mining it helps bring.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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