March 26, 2012, 9:15 PM — The Federal Trade Commission's final report on online consumer privacy can be summed up thusly: We've made progress but there's still a lot of work to do.
The progress cited by the FTC mostly relates to the work that the tech industry has made in implementing "Do Not Track" protocols for browsers, websites and Web-based advertisements that protect user privacy and give users the ability to control whether or not their data is shared. The more work cited by the FTC basically refers to just about everything else.
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For those who don't have time to leaf through the FTC's report, here are some quick breakdowns of the commission's five key privacy recommendations and the work that needs to be done to get them implemented.
First: Finish implementing "Do Not Track." The FTC singles out browser developers, the Digital Advertising Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for pitching in to make Do Not Track protocols a reality. The key work, though, is being done by the W3C building a universal Do Not Track mechanism that can be adopted by all browsers and websites. The FTC says that the W3C has published drafts of Do Not Track standards for both mobile and desktop devices and expects to have a final product ready to go in the coming months. The FTC's role will be to "work with these groups to complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system."
Second: Make sure mobile users get the same level of privacy protections that desktop users get. With the advent of GPS capabilities on smartphones and mobile applications that exist outside standard browsers, keeping consumers' privacy on the mobile Web is a wee bit trickier than on standard wireline services. The FTC plans to host a workshop at the end of May to address how companies can develop short, easy-to-understand privacy disclosures for mobile websites and applications that give users an accurate picture of what data is being collected from them and how it's being used.