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FTC wants businesses to beef up privacy protection

Consumer Reports News: December 01, 2010 05:16 PM

Concerned about your privacy online? So is the Federal Trade Commission, which today issued proposals for how businesses that collect and use consumer data should conduct themselves.

Among the proposals:

  • Companies should collect only the data necessary for a specific business purpose.
  • Data should be securely disposed of after that purpose has been met.
  • Employees of data-collecting companies should be trained on privacy issues, and companies should regularly conduct privacy reviews.
  • When data collection moves beyond commonly accepted practices, such as for product fulfillment and fraud protection, consumers should be provided with choices about how and when their activities are tracked and when they wish to receive targeted advertising.
  • Privacy policies—criticized for years because of their unclear language—should be clear, concise, and easy to read.
  • Depending on the sensitivity of the data and how it will be used, consumers should have access to the data companies maintain on them.
  • Consumers should be better educated about how data is collected and used.

The proposals resulted from a series of privacy roundtables hosted by the FTC over the past several months. The agency will be accepting comments until late January, with a final report due later next year.

Does collection of your private data make you nervous? How much are you willing to put up with to get a better deal or personalized service? Do you think these steps go far enough to protect you?

—Donna Tapellini

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