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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

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Brian Fung

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 04:42 PM ET, 06/28/2011

Consumers want privacy, do-not-track rules

The vast majority of Internet users want to be able to stop companies from tracking their online activity and feel the government should take a more active role in safeguarding their privacy, according to a poll by Consumers Union.

Consumers Union found that eight out of 10 respondents agreed they should be able to opt out of Internet tracking from a single location. That supports a “do not track” bill recently introduced by Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.V.).

The public interest group plans to present the survey Wednesday at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Internet privacy.

The Federal Trade Commission has also recommended that all companies be required to abide by a “do not track” mechanism — most likely implemented in browsing technology — that would block marketers from collecting and saving information about user activity online.

Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, said it also found in its survey of 1,007 households last month that two-thirds of consumers feel the government should be involved in safeguarding online privacy.

“Although we live in an age of extensive sharing, very few people would agree that every piece of information they transmit should be available to everyone, for any conceivable purpose,” Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumer Union said in a statement. Rusu will testify Wednesday, along with officials from the FTC and Commerce Department at a hearing to review online privacy proposals. Several bills are being deliberated that would create first-time privacy rules.

There have been recent public episodes of questionable data collection — by Google through its Street View cars and Facebook through its sharing of data with third party partners. A flurry of data breaches in recent weeks have also raised new questions about how to better inform users when their information has been obtained without permission and how companies should better safeguard data.


FTC member says do not track measures should apply to mobile apps

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By  |  04:42 PM ET, 06/28/2011

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