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Posted by in Online Secuity

FTC, Privacy, the Internet, and You


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently become the enforcing agency for the Obama administration's attempt to crack down on internet privacy. Recently the FTC smacked MySpace with the threat of an audit after the site shared user information with advertisers without their consent.

It wasn't so much that MySpace shared the information, it was that this action was contrary to their own privacy policy. While MySpace did not get fined and no charges were filed, the FTC is reported to be keeping a close watch on MySpace's usage of user information. MySpace did agreed to an FTC audit every other year, and to adhere to their own privacy policy from now on.

While MySpace has fallen from the graces of many social media users, this action may send a strong message to other social sites.

Facebook and Google have agreed to consent decrees to follow their privacy policies since the FTC came down on MySpace and they have been under investigation. But be aware that unless a site opts into the consent decree program, what they say they will do with your information and what they actually do with it may be two very different things.

In a recent interview Chairman Jon Leibowitz of the FTC says internet privacy is one of his top priorities, and looks upon the agency as the watch guard for internet privacy. The FTC says this authority falls under their jurisdiction against unfair and deceptive trade practices.

At this time there are no actual laws governing internet privacy, but the FTC does have the power to audit sites concerning their privacy policies and if they are following them.

So what does this mean to you the average internet user? You should be aware that each time you click on an ad, log into Facebook, look at one of the ads on the sidebar, like pages on Facebook, and browse websites you are being tracked. Websites have adware that installs on your computer silently and sends information about your browsing preferences to them.

This is not illegal and is the way many internet companies gather marketing information. The problem arises when a site promises not to sell your information to sites in their privacy policy, and does it anyway.

This is not to say we should all be scared of what we click on or look at on the web. Just be careful of what you put out there on the internet because once it is in cyberspace, there is no getting it back.

Install adware blockers and a high quality virus protection program on your computer, employ a VPN network to create a secure connection when you're using wi-fi, and never use a site away from your personal computer at home that you have to enter a user name and password. It is best for now to assume that internet privacy is in iffy prospect. Be smart, be safe, and be aware.

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