FTC Privacy Report Is Drawing Praise, Criticism

Consumer advocacy groups applauded the FTC’s report, though some question if it goes far enough. Industry groups say the recommended policies would stifle innovation.

The Federal Trade Commission€™s report calling for a combination of federal laws and self-policing among companies to protect online user privacy is drawing cautious praise from consumer advocacy groups, though some claimed the suggestions do not go far enough in establishing safeguards.

At the same time, some industry groups are arguing that the restrictions proposed in the FTC report, announced March 26, could harm innovation and restrict commerce on the Internet.

The reaction comes as the FTC joins other government agencies and the Obama Administration, as well as various tech industry groups, wrestling with the increasingly thorny issue of consumer online privacy. The debate has risen to new levels in recent months, with major Internet firms like Facebook and Google facing criticism from both the private and public sectors for the way they handle the issue of consumer privacy and the amount of personal data they collect, which often is used to help advertisers more easily target personalized ads for users.

More recently, Apple and Google have come under fire for enabling iPhones and Android-based smartphones to share personal data€”such as photos and contacts€”with mobile apps that are downloaded onto the devices. That has drawn the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) who has asked the FTC to look into the issue.

The FTC, which issued a preliminary report on the issue in December 2010, in its final report called on Congress to pass general privacy laws around personal data and breach notifications, while at the same time looking to the tech industry to develop policies that strengthen user privacy and give consumers greater control over what data can be collected and how it can be used.