NEWS24 June 2009

Privacy controls ‘not working’ says consumer protection chief

Government News North America Privacy

US— The new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection has called for a rethink in the way it approaches privacy, as current approaches are “not working”.


Speaking at the American Bar Association’s Consumer Protection Conference last week, David Vladeck said there is a need to “step back and re-examine” the approach to privacy.

Internet users do not understand the privacy policies that websites use to inform them of how their data is used, Vladeck said. Trying to addres the issue on the basis of “harm” to the consumer was also not effective, he said, because the harm done by infringing a person’s privacy cannot always be quantified.

Vladeck said he wants to take a “hard look” at behavioural advertising and would be seeking input from legal and business associations.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection is a part of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has already issued guidelines for self-regulation of online privacy, but critics say a tougher approach is needed. The FTC’s guidelines stopped short of requiring people’s explicit consent (an opt-in system) to track their online activities.

Congress is currently considering new laws to protect privacy, but the Interactive Advertising Bureau has warned they could harm the ad-supported online economy.