FTC Urges Privacy as ‘Default Setting’ for Consumer Data

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s chief privacy enforcer, is urging companies to immediately make “privacy the default setting” for commercial data practices targeting consumers.
The FTC, however, can’t force firms to do this without the help of Congress.
This is especially true if no law exists covering certain privacy issues tied to the rapidly-shifting world of smart phones, tablet computers and the social media interaction between consumers and businesses.
Facebook, for example, has faced the ire of the FTC and privacy advocates over the past couple of years over its complicated privacy settings. The social media giant has responded with a revamped and simpler privacy framework – although the issue continues to evolve with Facebook, Google and other prominent Web properties.
In its new report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers,” the FTC recommends that Congress consider enacting general privacy legislation, “data security and breach notification” legislation, and laws regulating data brokers.
The report follows a preliminary staff report that the FTC issued in December 2010.
The commission received more than 450 public comments in response to the preliminary report from businesses, privacy advocates, technologists and individual consumers.
Many supported the proposals for giving consumers easier controls over privacy issues, and many companies said they were already following them, the FTC said.
“At the same time, many commenters criticized the slow pace of self-regulation, and argued that it is time for Congress to enact baseline privacy legislation,” the FTC said.
The commission said it is prepared to work with Congress and other stakeholders to craft such legislation. At the same time, the commission urges industry to accelerate the pace of self-regulation.

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