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Online Privacy Needs A Federal Office

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According to a recent New York Times article, the government may be creating a department solely dedicated to strenghthening privacy policies within the United States and other countries. A recent report details why such a force is necessary. Although this new office would lack enforcement authority, they would work directly with the administration and necessary agencies to attack and solve privacy issues.

“America needs a robust privacy framework that preserves consumer trust in the evolving Internet economy while ensuring the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs and economic growth,” the Secretary of the Commerce, Gary F. Locke, said in a statement. “Self-regulation without stronger enforcement is not enough. Consumers must trust the Internet in order for businesses to succeed online.”

The policy task force already suggested we make visible exactly what information is collected online through a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” Companies that collect this information will then have increased accountability and limits on what they can do with information collected.

The FTC would remain in charge of consumer privacy issues, but privacy concerns extend beyond borders and need to be handled with other countries.  Information gathered from a 2009 study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that Internet advertising is responsible for approximately $300 billion of economic activity a year.

In the past, the FTC has called for improvements to online privacy policies by corporations. They have lobbied to give consumers the option of a “Do Not Track” button so third-party companies don’t have access to their information.

The more that internet users realize how much of their personal information is readily available to companies and advertisers, the more they want to put a stop to third-party tracking. Hopefully, such a task force can protect our privacy, while still giving us the ability to freely search the web.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of two identity theft prevention books, Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010) and America’s top Identity Theft Speaker. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.