Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz yesterday signaled the FTC’s preferences for future online privacy policies before the House Sub-Committee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. Chairman Leibowitz would like to see a best practices for protecting consumer online privacy; an acceleration of self-regulation within the online industry; a consumer privacy bill of rights which is heavily endorsed by the Obama Administration, and further developments in a do not track mechanism that would protect consumers visiting certain websites.
Chairman Leibowitz also recommended that Congress enact general privacy legislation. The legislation should require that companies implement reasonable measures and notify consumers of certain security breaches while providing consumers access to information maintained on them by information data brokers.
I can understand consumer concerns about the leakage of certain pieces of information, i.e., financial and medical information. Unfortunately sensitive information can be used against consumers during job searches or legal proceedings. Consumers should have this assurance especially if we want to promote broadband adoption among 100 million households over the next decade.
Investors and businesses should not be too overly concerned that the best practices proposed by the FTC are overly intrusive. The FTC appears to be saying before the consumer goes past Checkpoint Charlie, agree on the information that he is going to share and assure him of how it is being used and who else may be seeing it. Once he passes Checkpoint Charlie, however, the flow of commerce should be left uninterrupted. Delays in information flow will only drive up business costs by creating a false scarcity of information and added uncertainty in decision making.