• The FCC and FTC each recently unveiled initiatives aimed at improving privacy in the digital age, especially the privacy of children. The agencies made their announcements at a press event hosted by Common Sense Media at which survey findings were released showing that parents want stronger online privacy protections for children and teens such as a ban on behavioral advertising to children and a parental opt-in policy for location-based services and applications for children. Speaking at the briefing, FCC Chairman Genachowski emphasized the importance of privacy both as a value in its own right and as a factor affecting whether users will have the trust and confidence in online transactions that are needed for the Internet to thrive. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz unveiled a multimedia community outreach toolkit that expands on the “Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids about Being Online” booklet; the agency has distributed 5 million copies of the booklet since last fall. The multimedia version, like the booklet, will be available for free. It can be ordered at bulkorder.ftc.gov or downloaded at www.onguardonline.gov.
  • The New York Times recently reported additional privacy concerns that may arise as a result of HTML5, a new coding language that will soon power the Internet. According to the story, HTML5 contains a powerful new suite of capabilities that could give advertisers access to many more details about computer users’ online activities. The language makes it easier for users to view multimedia content without downloading extra software, as well as check e-mail offline and find a favorite restaurant or shop on a smartphone. But the language also presents more tracking opportunities, because it uses a process in which large amounts of data can be collected and stored on the user’s hard drive while they are online. Experts say that this process will enable advertisers to see weeks or even months of personal data, including a user’s location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, e-mails, and a history of the Web pages visited. One cited risk is a so-called “supercookie” that stores information in at least 10 places on a computer, far more than is usual. It was developed by Samy Kamkar, a California programmer best known for creating a virus that took down MySpace.com in 2005.