FTC report: Privacy self-regulation is working

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The Federal Trade Commission's latest report on online privacy says industry self-regulation is working well enough to hold off on seeking new legislation that could limit the information collected from adults at Web sites.

The agency, however, said it intends to hold a workshop on the implications of electronic identifiers that help Web sites track consumers' online behavior. It specifically cited concern about "online profiling'' that tracks consumers' movement on the Web and combines it with other personal information to create targeted user-profiled ad campaigns.

The report, due to be presented to a House panel July 13, updates a study of a year ago reporting that few sites had privacy policies. The latest study cites a big growth in the number of sites with privacy policies, but says more work needs to be done to see that each policy clearly addresses all four privacy concerns: notice/awareness, choice/consent, access/participation and security/integrity. The FTC also said it plans to create two task forces. One would look at the cost and benefit of implementing fair information practices online and the other would look at possible incentives to encourage development of privacy-enhancing technologies.

While the commission recommended no immediate action, Commissioner Sheila Anthony suggested some legislation might be necessary to set a minimum level of privacy protection. The report will be available July 13 from the FTC's Web site.

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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