As the Washington Post explains here, "The Federal Trade Commission [yesterday] urged Congress to enact Internet privacy laws that would force data brokers to reveal what information they buy and sell about consumers." The article goes on:
Much of the 73-page report focused on the need for companies to clearly explain how they collect data about users and for what purposes they use that information. he FTC called for legislation on data brokers — the Web's information middlemen, such as Lexis Nexis and Choicepoint — who take data that has been collected online and merge the information with documents offline to create detailed portraits of consumers. The brokers “sell a wealth of highly personal information about consumers but never interact directly with them,” according to the report. “Consumers are often unaware of the existence of these entities, as well as the purposes for which they collect and use data.”
The FTC explains that it is asking companies to establish reforms in three key areas:
- Privacy by Design - companies should build in consumers' privacy protections at every stage in developing their products. These include reasonable security for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data, and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy;
- Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers - companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom. This should include a Do-Not-Track mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities.
- Greater Transparency - companies should disclose details about their collection and use of consumers' information, and provide consumers access to the data collected about them.