• On December 1, 2010, the FTC released its much-anticipated staff report on online privacy which proposes a broad framework for regulating the commercial use of information gathered from consumers’ online activities. The report calls upon the FTC to develop rules that (1) provide additional privacy and data security protections for consumers, (2) allow consumers to choose whether they want companies to collect information about their online browsing habits (e.g., consumers should have access to a universal “Do Not Track” mechanism), and (3) give individual consumers the right to access and review information about themselves collected by online companies and data aggregators. As drafted, many of the report’s recommendations would require Congress to pass new legislation or require the industry to develop new processes for self-regulation. Comments on the report are due to the FTC before or on January 31, 2011.

A copy of the report can be found here.

  • On December 2, 2010, the FTC revealed that it is engaged in discussions with Adobe on how to curb the use of “Flash cookies” for tracking consumers’ online activity. Flash cookies, which Adobe refers to as “local shared objects,” are chunks of data embedded in the Adobe Flash Payer in web browsers that cannot be eliminated with standard privacy controls. Adobe’s Flash software is embedded in 98 percent of computers, and is necessary to watch online video at sites like YouTube. Because Flash cookies cannot be easily removed from browsers, privacy advocates have expressed grave concerns about their use. In addition, Adobe has repeatedly condemned the use of Flash cookies by developers for tracking purposes.