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In this issue

Take Back Your Privacy with CDT

Tech Policy Outside the Beltway

Washington, DC
Austin, Texas — CDT Chief Computer Scientist Alissa Cooper spoke at a workshop called “Making Privacy” at the UT-Austin School of Information on December 5.


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Privacy remains one of the Internet’s unresolved challenges, leaving consumers unsatisfied and companies at risk. A more activist Federal Trade Commission is making privacy a priority. Yesterday, the Commission kicked off a “roundtable” series on the future of privacy; CDT’s Leslie Harris was on the first panel. Some believe that next year may finally see Congressional action on federal privacy legislation – a goal long supported by CDT and leading Internet companies. With CDT at the center of the debate, this issue of Tech Policy Download focuses on consumer privacy.

Taking Back Our Privacy

Last week, CDT launched Take Back Your Privacy, a national campaign that seeks to mobilize consumers with two goals:

  1. winning passage of comprehensive federal consumer privacy legislation, and
  2. fostering an environment in which companies compete to provide the best privacy controls and consumers vote with their feet and their wallets for the companies that care the most about privacy.

The campaign’s premise is that consumers should have the right to control their information, but right now they neither have adequate legal rights nor do the products and services they use offer them sufficient tools to control the collection and use of their data.

CDT’s Take Back Your Privacy campaign will highlight new privacy tools, encourage companies to offer more and better options, and mobilize Internet users to demand them. In addition to urging consumers to contact their Members of Congress in support of privacy legislation, the campaign released its first tool -- a downloadable bookmarklet that allows consumers to more easily file privacy complaints with government agencies and to share those complaints with their friends through social networks.

CDT Report Finds Online Advertising Guidelines Lacking

Yesterday, timed to the FTC roundtable, CDT released a report examining the self-regulatory practices of the online behavioral advertising industry. The detailed report centers on the application of the full set of Fair Information Practices (FIPs), widely recognized as the best framework for information privacy. The report finds that the self-regulatory guidelines—despite some recent progress—aren't strong enough or comprehensive enough. CDT believes that consumers are best served by a system in which self-regulation and legislation work in tandem with consumer education and privacy-sensitive product design. To fully protect consumer privacy interests requires Congress to pass a general consumer privacy law and give the Federal Trade Commission broader rulemaking authority over consumer privacy in general and behavioral advertising practices specifically, the report concludes. In advance of the FTC's Privacy Roundtable, CDT submitted comments on refocusing the agency's role in privacy protection.

Google Books Settlement Needs More Editing

When Google’s settlement with publishers over the controversial Google Books Service was withdrawn for revisions in September, CDT joined other advocates calling for the agreement to include stronger privacy protections for users. Unfortunately, those recommendations seem to have fallen largely on deaf ears, as the revised settlement contains few new protections for privacy. Instead, the revisions narrowly address the copyright and antitrust problems raised by the Department of Justice. CDT had urged Google to make specific privacy commitments enforceable by the court overseeing the settlement. In the revised settlement, Google did agree not to share personal data with a copyright-royalty collection group, but ignored other significant privacy concerns. Google Books, of course, is not the only online service that implicates the traditional right to read and to otherwise access information freely, so whatever happens in the case, legislative reform is needed.

CDT’s Tech Policy Download is a bi-weekly e-newsletter published by the Center for Democracy and Technology. To unsubscribe, click the following link. Unsubscribe

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