Revamping online privacy

Federal oversight is needed in an industry where privacy is almost nonexistent.

Web-based companies have enjoyed the freedom to regulate themselves in regard to online privacy, which has proven to be beneficial for them while a nuisance to their users. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided to let the Internet industry remain self-regulating for another year, despite growing concerns about harmful practices Web companies deceptively employ. FTC regulation is desperately needed. The FTC updated its policy on behavioral advertising âÄî online advertising that tracks user Web habits âÄî at the end of 2007. The policy changes asked Web companies to state what they do with their usersâÄô information in a âÄúclear, user-friendly wayâÄù somewhere other than in the privacy policy. But because the policy change was only voluntary for Web companies, the commission found that few came close to meeting the requirement. The FTC should notice that most Web-based companies cannot be trusted without oversight in regard to privacy. Today, almost every website requires some form of personal information from its users. Although vague, some websites do try to entail what they do with their usersâÄô information in a privacy policy. But very few people will actually read the privacy policies, proving them generally ineffective. The FTC needs to force Web-based companies to clearly state, in a user-friendly way, what they do with their usersâÄô information somewhere other than in the privacy policy. Privacy policies are inefficient in an online environment where companies require everything from your name to your social security number.