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FTC chairman Leibowitz: Do Not Track will happen even without legislation

Consumer Reports News: April 13, 2011 05:05 PM

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There’s no Do Not Track provision in the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act, legislation introduced yesterday by Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.). But Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz is confident that his agency’s call for widespread implementation of Do Not Track will happen without legislation.

“Companies want to do the right thing, and stay on the right side of consumers,” Leibowitz told us during an interview at Consumer Reports’ headquarters in Yonkers, NY, today. “So maybe we won’t need legislation.

“We’re happy to see that [Do Not Track] has resonated this much not just with the public and consumers, but with industry,” he added.

[UPDATE: For more, watch a nine minute video interview with FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, conducted by The Consumerist's Executive Editor, Meghann Marco. —Ed.]

One item the bill does mandate is a “clear and conspicuous” way for consumers to opt out of being tracked by third-party marketers. To ensure that consumers will actually use the new option, the controls will need to be easy to understand, as well as easily accessible, Leibowitz said. For example, people should to be able to opt out in one easy step, without being forced to go through multiple clicks.

Opt-out controls will also need to be “persistent,” meaning that once consumers choose to opt out, they should remain out unless they decide to opt back in. “You don’t want to be able to exercise an option and then have it vanish in a week,” Leibowitz said.

Donna L. Tapellini

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