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FTC wants new privacy framework: asks for simple controls, transparent policies


There's plenty of people bothered by the dossiers of data companies like Facebook and Google can (and do) compile on their users, particularly in places across the pond. Now, the Federal Trade Commission has come up with a privacy framework to help address consumer concerns and provide companies with best practices to proliferate better privacy policies. This new plan is articulated in the FTC's recently released privacy report, and seeks to persuade companies to adopt a Privacy by Design ethos. Companies can do this by building in simplified privacy controls throughout product development and making info collection and practices transparent to users.

In order to meet these goals, the FTC came up with a five-pronged approach. First up is the widespread implementation of a Do Not Track system -- for which the W3C is currently creating an international standard -- that has already made its way into Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome to make it easy to opt out of targeted ads. Mobile services are also a priority, as the FTC wants concise, meaningful privacy disclosures to make them easy to digest when on smaller screens. Next, the FTC wants consumers to be able to easily find what personal info is held by data brokers, and is pushing those data brokers to create a centralized website to that end. ISPs, social networks, operating systems, and other so-called "large platform providers" are also under scrutiny for their ability to comprehensively track consumers, and the FTC will have a public workshop later this year to "further explore" issues related to that capability. Lastly, the Commission is working with the Department of Commerce to create business sector-specific codes of conduct, and pledges to continue to take action against companies that don't abide by their own policies.

In order to assuage fears that its framework puts too big of a financial burden on small businesses, the FTC made clear that it doesn't apply to companies that collect data from less than 5,000 customers and don't share that data with third parties. Sounds like a good plan, fellas, but we won't get too excited until we see the big boys actually implementing it.

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