The FTC and Your Privacy Rights
Lately the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been in the news regarding internet privacy and how it is trying to protect people’s private information. Google’s mining of information from unprotected wi-fi connections via its StreetView cars and the discovery of cookies on the Safari browser which shared information without users’ knowledge have made the headlines. With this recent focus on the FTC you may be wondering just exactly what is the commision doing to protect your privacy. The issue of internet privacy is a subject as old as the internet itself. With all of the new technologies bursting onto the scene, the FTC is trying to keep up with technology and defining its role in protecting US citizen’s private information. Its role and responsibilities are being defined as technology evolves.
What is the FTC?
According to the official FTC website the commission was formed to protect consumers from unfair practices, anticompetitive business practices, and deceptive business practices without impeding legitimate business practices. The vision of the FTC is to enforce these guidelines in order to encourage a healthy competition and economy in the US. Its three strategic goals include protecting consumers, maintaining competition, and advance performance of the FTC. This is done by the FTC’s Bureaus of Consumer Protection, Competition and Economics. The Office of General Counsel and seven regional offices also aid in the FTC’s work.
Since its creation in 1914 the FTC has worked to protect consumers and was formed to help battle to trust busts which were forming at that time. A prohibition against unfair and deceptive business practices and acts was passed by Congress in 1938 giving the FTC more power to enforce these prohibitions. As technology has become more sophisticated, the FTC has made an effort to keep in step to protect American consumers. The Telemarketing Sales Rule, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and Pay-Per-Call Rule are examples of the ways the FTC has been protecting consumers since its inception. The FTC received permission to adopt industry wide regulation rules from Congress in 1975.
The FTC and Internet Privacy
While some critics feel the FTC does not have enough authority to effectively protect consumers on the internet and their private information, the FTC is not without teeth. The commission is trying to find ways to protect consumer’s privacy and still let companies profit. It is a fine line between protecting privacy and stifling competition. One example of how the FTC is striving to protect your privacy is the 20 year audit imposed upon Google. Each year for 20 years Google must present the FTC with evidence it is not collecting and using users’ private information improperly. Although internet marketing is based on collecting information about users, what companies do with this information is the concern of the FTC. The FTC makes sure companies abide by their own privacy policies. If they do not, they may face audits and sanctions.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Privacy?
The introduction of cloud computing, wi-fi connections, mobile devices, and invasive cookies and tracking software all combine to make the FTC’s job challenging. You can do your part to protect your privacy. By using a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN) you can thwart many attempts to collect information about your internet usage and protect your private data. Since a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel of information the data intercepted will be gibberish to hackers and criminals. A VPN also protects your browsing history and web usage. The FTC is developing new ways to protect your privacy, and you can do your part by using a quality VPN.