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FTC Wants Internet Companies to Use "Do Not Track" System

On Monday the FTC released its 57-page final report on privacy recommendations, urging Internet-based companies to voluntarily adopt a "Do Not Track" system so that consumers will have more control over their personal data online. The report is largely similar to the preliminary recommendations released by the FTC back in December 2010.

The FTC doesn't have the authority to actually write the privacy-related rules, but it can bring enforcement actions against companies that violate their own privacy policies. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that the agency is currently working with Internet companies to create tougher internal privacy policies, and to get a industry-wide system in place that will ensure the security of consumer data and limit the collection and retention of said data.

"We are confident that consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don't," he said in a statement.

In the report, the FTC urged companies to think about consumer privacy from the start when developing software rather than tack it on afterward. Companies also need to be perfectly clear to consumers what data they are collecting and why. These two requests obviously stem from the controversy surrounding numerous mobile phone apps that unknowingly collected data and piped the info to remote servers.

The FTC's final report also suggests that data brokers -- those who buy, compile and sell personal information about consumers -- should give those consumers access to the information they've collected. Even more, there should be a centralized website where consumers can get more information about how data is collected and used, and provide other options if available.

The report follows a recent proposal by the White House that called for a "privacy bill of rights" which would essentially give consumers more control over their data. But the new bill would require voluntary commitments by the likes of Google and Facebook.