‘Do Not Track’ tool could enhance online privacy

The FTC has proposed a new online privacy tool that would prevent marketers from tracking web users' browser activity if they choose to 'opt out' from this action.

Federal regulators are proposing to create a “Do Not Track” tool for enhancing online privacy, so that people could prevent marketers from tracking their web browsing habits and other online behavior in order to deliver targeted advertising.

The proposal, inspired by the government’s existing “Do Not Call” registry for telemarketers, is one of a series of recommendations outlined in a privacy report released Dec. 1 by the Federal Trade Commission. The report lays out a broad framework for protecting consumer privacy both online and offline as personal data collection becomes ubiquitous—often without consumer knowledge.

The FTC hopes its report will help guide the marketing industry as it develops self-regulatory principles to define acceptable corporate behavior and inform lawmakers and other policy makers as they draft new rules of the road to protect online privacy. The FTC has limited authority to write those rules itself, so new regulations likely would require congressional action.…Read More

Stage set for showdown on online privacy

After “do not call” lists became popular, more than 90 percent of people who signed up reported fewer annoying telemarketing calls. Now, privacy advocates are pushing for a similar “do not track” feature that would let internet users tell web sites to stop surreptitiously tracking their online habits and collecting clues about age, salary, health, location and leisure activities, reports the New York Times. That proposal and other ideas to protect online privacy are setting up a confrontation among internet companies, federal regulators, the Obama administration, and Congress over how strict any new rules should be. In the next few weeks, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department are planning to release independent, and possibly conflicting, reports about online privacy. Top Commerce officials have indicated that the department favors letting the industry regulate itself, building on the common practice of user agreements where companies post their privacy policies online or consumers check a box agreeing to abide by them. Top trade commission officials, however, have indicated they are exploring a stricter standard, one that requires a “do not track” option on a web site or browser similar to the “do not call” lists…

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New campaign targets online privacy for children and teens

New campaign says legislature must support children's online privacy.
Common Sense Media's new campaign asks schools to do more to teach students about online privacy.

Amid growing concern about how much information students are revealing about themselves in their personal profiles on social networking web sites and other online services, the national child advocacy group Common Sense Media is asking adults, parents, and teens to help make a stand for online privacy by demanding that companies provide an “opt-in” feature for sharing the information of all children under the age of 18.

Common Sense Media’s national campaign, called “Do Not Track Kids,” began from what the group considered to be startling statistics about online privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 50 of the most popular U.S. web sites are placing intrusive tracking technology on visitors’ computers—in some cases, more than 100 tracking tools at a time. Fifty sites popular with U.S. teens and children placed more than 4,000 “cookies,” “beacons,” and other tracking technologies on their sites, the Journal reported—and that’s 30 percent more than were found on similar sites aimed at adults.…Read More

Do students need more online privacy education?

One privacy expert says colleges should stress internet-use policies in the aftermath of the Rutgers suicide.
One privacy expert says colleges should stress internet-use policies in the aftermath of the Rutgers suicide.

Privacy advocates say the rules regarding internet privacy and appropriate online behavior should be stressed at colleges and universities, especially among incoming freshmen, in the wake of a Rutgers University student’s suicide after a video of him having sex was posted on the web without his consent.

A lawyer for Tyler Clementi, who was a freshman at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., confirmed that Clementi had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last month. Clementi’s suicide came days after the student’s private sex acts were made available in an online broadcast set up by two students—Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, both 18—who were later charged with invasion of privacy, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan.

The investigation began “after Rutgers police learned that the camera had been placed in the 18-year-old student’s dorm room without permission,” according to a Sept. 28 release from Kaplan’s office. Kaplan said Wei was released after surrendering to Rutgers University Police Sept. 27. Ravi was released on $25,000 bail.…Read More

Rutgers student kills self after sex act broadcast online

Two Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy for the acts that reportedly led to a classmate's death.
Two Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy for the acts that reportedly led to a classmate's death.

A Rutgers University student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after authorities say two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the internet.

Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge last week, said his family’s attorney, Paul Mainardi. Police recovered a man’s body on Sept. 29 in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

ABC News and the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Sept. 29, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.…Read More

Facebook Places: Marketing tool or educational asset?

UK's Facebook Places ad campaign guides students to an educational web site.
UK's Facebook Places ad campaign guides students to an educational web site.

The University of Kentucky, if all goes according to the campus’s marketing plan, could pop up in 1.3 million Facebook news feeds during the fall semester—and students might just learn something about maintaining online privacy in the process.

The Lexington, Ky., university placed six-foot wooden Facebook Places logos in six campus locations with the heaviest foot traffic to encourage students to “check in” using Facebook’s geo-tagging application, which lets users show friends where they are—the campus library, for instance.

Places, which is similar to geo-tagging services Yelp, Gowalla, Booyah, and Foursquare, launched in August and drew skeptical reviews from many in higher education. Facebook users must opt into Places before the application displays the person’s location.…Read More

Code that tracks users’ browsing prompts lawsuits

Sandra Person Burns used to love browsing and shopping online. Until she realized she was being tracked by software on her computer that she thought she had erased, reports the New York Times. Ms. Person Burns, 67, a retired health care executive who lives in Jackson, Miss., said she is wary of online shopping: “Instead of going to Amazon, I’m going to the local bookstore.” Ms. Person Burns is one of a growing number of consumers who are taking legal action against companies that track computer users’ activity on the internet. At issue is a little-known piece of computer code placed on hard drives by the Flash program from Adobe when users watch videos on popular web sites like YouTube and Hulu. The technology, so-called Flash cookies, is bringing an increasing number of federal lawsuits against media and technology companies and growing criticism from some privacy advocates who say the software may also allow the companies to create detailed profiles of consumers without their knowledge…

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Columbia grad sues Google to unmask malicious poster

A growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs and web sites to disclose who's trashing them.
A growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs and web sites to disclose who's trashing them.

A business consultant wants a court to force YouTube and its owner, Google Inc., to reveal the identity of someone who posted what she says are unauthorized videos of her and online comments that hurt her reputation to a Columbia Business School web site while she was attending the school.

Carla Franklin, a former model and actress turned MBA, said in a legal petition filed Aug. 16 that she believes a Google user or users impugned her sexual mores in comments made under pseudonyms on a Columbia Business School web site.

Franklin says someone also posted unauthorized YouTube clips of her appearing in a small-budget independent movie.…Read More

Momentum building for federal online privacy rules

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., plans to introduce an online privacy bill that would create standards for how consumer information is collected and used for marketing, reports the Washington Post. The bill also would give users more control over how their internet activity and profiles are accessed by advertisers and web sites. Kerry’s bill, announced in a July 27 news release during a hearing on online privacy held by the Senate commerce committee, follows two privacy bills introduced in the House in recent months aimed at protecting sensitive information such as health and financial data. Kerry said he hopes his bill will be passed at the beginning of the next Congress. The legislative proposals add momentum to a push by consumer groups to create stronger federal rules for how companies such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon.com, and Google can track user activity and place ads based on that information. Facebook faced criticism for creating complex changes to its privacy polices last year that made some data more publicly available. Apple and AT&T were criticized for a data breach that revealed the network identities of iPad users, while Google said it accidentally snooped on residential Wi-Fi networks as it collected information for location-based applications. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, meanwhile, noted during the hearing that web sites and advertisers have been working to come up with their own rules for how to collect and use information in a way that doesn’t violate privacy rights…

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Study: Young adults do care about online privacy

Young adults should be informed about online privacy, experts say.
Young adults should be informed about online privacy, experts say.

All the dirty laundry younger people seem to air on social networks these days might lead older Americans to conclude that today’s tech-savvy generation doesn’t care about privacy.

Such an assumption fits happily with declarations that privacy is dead, as online marketers and social sites such as Facebook try to persuade people to share even more about who they are, what they are thinking, and where they are at any given time.

But it’s not quite true, a new study finds. Despite mounds of anecdotes about college students sharing booze-chugging party photos, posting raunchy messages, and badmouthing potential employers online, young adults generally care as much about privacy as older Americans.…Read More