FTC Chairman Delivers Keynote Speech about Online Privacy

Chairman Jon Leibowitz today gave the keynote speech at an online privacy event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. He explained that the overall common privacy goal is to protect consumer privacy while ensuring a cyberspace that generates the free content we have all come to expect and enjoy. Chairman Leibowitz likened the paparazzi, who expose private moments, to invisible online data collection practices, which he called “cyberazzi.” He also highlighted FTC staff’s proposed framework for safeguarding consumers’ personal data and recent FTC privacy enforcement actions. The FTC staff report laid a foundation for industry innovation and best practices by putting forth three principles to protect consumer privacy online: privacy by design (building privacy protections into everyday business practices), transparency (telling consumers when their information is being collected), and choice (streamlined and effective choices about the collection and use of their data). Chairman Leibowitz said a final report is expected in the coming months.

Here’s some of his speech:

A host of invisible cyberazzi – cookies and other data catchers – follow us as we browse, reporting our every stop and action to marketing firms that, in turn, collect an astonishingly complete profile of our online behavior. Whenever we click, so do they.

…Of course, most online advertisers are nothing like paparazzi; many companies have strong privacy policies protecting consumers. But we are not presenting a digitally altered picture of the situation. Once you enter cyberspace, software placed on your computer – usually without your consent or even knowledge – turns your private information into a commodity out of your control. And keep in mind: as my former colleague Republican FTC Chairman Debbie Majoras used to say, your computer is your property.

At the FTC, we want you to get that control back. We’ve been safeguarding privacy since long before the cyberazzi focused their wide angles on the public. Our goal: to stay one step ahead of technology as it races along, finding better hiding places, stronger lenses, and more means to record and store your every move.

A full copy of the speech, Online and Overexposed: Consumer Privacy, the FTC, and the Rise of Cyberazzi, is available on the FTC’s site. For more information about the FTC’s proposed privacy framework, see Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change

Tagged with: privacy, FTC, cookies, tracking

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