FTC Beats the Drum on Privacy Regulation

Earlier this year, the E.U.’s “Right to be Forgotten” took a step toward implementation, despite the enormous free speech and business costs. Then in February, the White House released a framework calling for a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” based off European standards. Now, in the same vein, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released its final report on consumer privacy.

Calling for Congress to enact “baseline privacy legislation,” the FTC’s regulatory appetite has hardly diminished. The Commission builds off a preliminary report released in December 2010, renewing a push for “Do Not Track” functions, while also slightly expanding the regulatory focus, covering computer operating systems, mobile devices, and information brokers.

As we’ve said before, privacy protection begins at the consumer level. There are numerous tools already available to stop unwanted tracking, block advertisements, and becoming a more informed web user. As consumers and businesses jostle with each other over what privacy looks like in the digital age, the market will find a balance between preserving this notion of privacy and providing free, innovative, ad-based services that consumers have come to love.

It comes as no surprise that the FTC and White House are calling on Congress to give them more regulatory power over the Internet. However, the chance that Congress acts anytime soon are slim at best. Last year, at least six privacy bills were introduced and were effectively dead on arrival. Monthly pushes by the E.U. and White House this year have made little difference.

If government does anything, it should put its money where its mouth is and act to protect 4th Amendment rights online by securing our information from government. Only after that can a legitimate discussion over regulating information and privacy practices between businesses and consumers take place.