Barton: FTC Privacy Report Is Helpful, But Legislation is Necessary

Says that companies won't abide by consumer protection policies until a law is passed
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Reaction continued to pour in Monday after the
Federal Trade Commission released its final report on online privacy.

Rep.
Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, said the
report was as good as far as it went, but said that privacy legislation -- he
is a co-sponsor, with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
of Kids Do Not Track legislation -- is still needed.

"While
the FTC makes good recommendations to businesses, it is important to remember
they are not law," Barton said in a statement. "These recommendations
are not enforceable, which is why I loudly echo the FTC's call for privacy
legislation. It is not until a law is passed that all companies will truly
abide by consumer protection policies."

Some
90% of online advertisers have agreed to a voluntary, browser-based do not
track regime endorsed by the White House. Violators of that pledge could be
subject to FTC action based on its authority over deceptive practices. It is
less clear how to deal with however many of the other 10% choose not to take
the pledge, although FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz indicated Monday he thought they
would follow suit.

Another
fan of privacy legislation, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) said the committee
would take the FTC's recommendations seriously. "This report encourages
Congress to pass legislation to promote consumer online privacy protection, and
I think that's a recommendation the Committee needs to seriously
consider," he said. "I also agree with the FTC's conclusion that
online companies need to do a better job of honoring consumer requests when
they make a ‘do-not-track' request on their Internet browsers.  Those
companies said they'd do that, and they need to make good."

Ioana
Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, called it a good report,
especially its recognition that "we need better tools and information to
decide how our personal information is used."  She was also pleased with
the recommendation for baseline privacy legislation. "There are a lot of good
initiatives in play that could help protect consumers' privacy, but ideally, we
need a law to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules."

FTC
Chairman Jon Leibowitz made the same point in arguing for Congress leveling the
playing field with some "rules of the road."

USTelecom
said it was still studying the report, but like what it saw so far. "We
support the general principles outlined in the framework for increasing
consumer privacy protections," said USTelecom senior VP Jonathan Banks.
"As an industry with long experience and a deep commitment to providing
consumers the highest levels of data privacy protections, we believe all
companies should work cooperatively to assure Americans that their personal
information is carefully safeguarded. Following on the heels of the Commerce
Department's recent white paper on privacy, today's report takes another
positive step toward building a system that provides workable privacy
protections for consumers."

But
not everyone was rolling out the red carpet.

"The
FTC's recommendations to protect consumer privacy by imposing new reporting
requirements on businesses, restricting online advertising, and stifling
innovation in the mobile market are misguided," said Information
Technology & Innovation Foundation Senior Analyst Daniel Castro. "The
new report shows the FTC still does not understand the fundamental economics of
the Internet."

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