"Privacy Online: Fair Information Practices
in the Electronic Marketplace" reflects the narrow 3-2 vote of the Federal
Trade Commission to support a four-pronged regulatory approach to online
privacy. A regulatory agency, most likely the FTC itself, would be
tasked with assuring that online businesses comply with the federally imposed
mandates of notice, choice, access, and security.
E-commerce sites would have to provide
consumers with "clear and conspicuous" notice of the information they collect
and with whom they share it. They would also be forced to get consent
from consumers before they can collect data, provide access for consumers
to review and delete their file, and take "reasonable" steps to make sure
the collected information is secure.
The FTC's recommendation invites legislation
"in general terms" which would "provide flexibility to the implementing
agency in promulgating its rules and regulations. The reason for
this, according to the commission, is the constantly changing technological
environment. This is deeply ironic because the FTC's report faults
the private sector, operating in that same environment, for not adopting
adequate privacy policies quickly enough.
Despite the FTC's conclusions, its
study of privacy demonstrates the efforts of businesses to protect the privacy
of consumers. In 1998, only 14 percent of randomly sampled Web sites
and 71 percent of the most popular sites provided privacy disclosures.
Today, those numbers read 62 percent and 97 percent respectively.
There is little basis for concluding that the major commercial Web sites
have failed in their efforts to satisfy the demands of the regulators.
At the same time, the clear majority
of government Web sites fail to provide notice, choice, access, and security,
the very requirements that the FTC would impose on the private sector.
Privacy Online: Fear and
Loathing at the FTC by Jason M. Thomas, Citizens for a Sound Economy
(June 23, 2000)
Tidbits in Tech News: Armey,
Tauzin, and Goodlatte’s Letter to Clinton/Gore
by Jason M. Thomas, Citizens for a Sound Economy (June 21, 2000)
the Government in a Position to Talk About Internet Privacy? Letter
from Congressional Leaders to President Clinton and Vice President Gore
(June 16, 2000)