Staff of the Federal Trade Commission believe that companies should "seek affirmative express consent" from consumers before collecting sensitive information, including details about children, financial and medical information and precise geographic location data.

That belief and other recommendations from FTC staff are in a preliminary report--being released for public comment--that offers a framework for balancing the privacy interests of consumers and the industrys' reliance on consumer information.

Industry efforts to protect data through self-regulation "have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection," according to the preliminary report. Other recommendations include:

* New protections for consumer data, limited collection and retention of such data and reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy;

* Simplifying and shortening privacy notices, and presenting consumers with choice about the collection and sharing of their data at the time and in the context in which they are making decisions;

* Implementing a "Do Not Track" mechanism governing the collection of consumer Internet activity by placing a "persistent setting," similar to a cookie, on a consumer's browser that the consumer can use to block being tracked and receiving targeted ads; and

* Permitting consumers "reasonable access" to the data that companies maintain about them, particularly for non-consumer facing entities such as data brokers.

The report is available here. The Web site to submit comments until Jan. 31, 2011, is here.

--Joseph Goedert


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