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Home > Privacy and Business > Online Privacy > Current Issues: > FTC 2000 Report to Congress

FTC 2000 Report to Congress

"Privacy Online: Fair Information Practices in the Electronic Marketplace" reflects the narrow 3-2 vote of the Federal Trade Commission to support a four-pronged regulatory approach to online privacy.  A regulatory agency, most likely the FTC itself, would be tasked with assuring that online businesses comply with the federally imposed mandates of notice, choice, access, and security.

E-commerce sites would have to provide consumers with "clear and conspicuous" notice of the information they collect and with whom they share it.  They would also be forced to get consent from consumers before they can collect data, provide access for consumers to review and delete their file, and take "reasonable" steps to make sure the collected information is secure.

The FTC's recommendation invites legislation "in general terms" which would "provide flexibility to the implementing agency in promulgating its rules and regulations. The reason for this, according to the commission, is the constantly changing technological environment. This is deeply ironic because the FTC's report faults the private sector, operating in that same environment, for not adopting adequate privacy policies quickly enough.

Despite the FTC's conclusions, its study of privacy demonstrates the efforts of businesses to protect the privacy of consumers. In 1998, only 14 percent of randomly sampled Web sites and 71 percent of the most popular sites provided privacy disclosures. Today, those numbers read 62 percent and 97 percent respectively. There is little basis for concluding that the major commercial Web sites have failed in their efforts to satisfy the demands of the regulators.

At the same time, the clear majority of government Web sites fail to provide notice, choice, access, and security, the very requirements that the FTC would impose on the private sector.


Privacy Online: Fear and Loathing at the FTC by Jason M. Thomas, Citizens for a Sound Economy (June 23, 2000)

Tidbits in Tech News: Armey, Tauzin, and Goodlatte’s Letter to Clinton/Gore by Jason M. Thomas, Citizens for a Sound Economy (June 21, 2000)

Is the Government in a Position to Talk About Internet Privacy? Letter from Congressional Leaders to President Clinton and Vice President Gore (June 16, 2000)

Comments? (Subject: FTC2000)

[updated 9/4/00]

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