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FTC Answers Questions About Privacy Report on Twitter

In a bid to increase its transparency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) answered questions about a new privacy report via Twitter yesterday. As this report pertains to online privacy, it’s a fitting move to take questions on Twitter. We’ve got some of the FTC’s responses to the privacy-concerned tweeting public below.

The FTC released the report entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change” yesterday afternoon. After taking questions from journalists at 1PM EST, they opened up their Twitter account to questions from the public at 3PM. Prior to 3, they released a link to the report and key points about it on Twitter.

The FTC report in question includes items like the proposed Do Not Track list for consumers who want to keep their search and browsing habits from being monitored by third parties, “privacy by design” best practices for businesses on the web, and increased transparency of information-gathering practices online.

By following the hashtag #FTCpriv, users could watch or participate in the FTC’s Twitter Q&A. In keeping with their ethos of privacy, they tweeted that they would not be using anyone’s Twitter handle to @reply when answering questions, but would rather label them as Q1, A1, etc. (although anyone following the hashtag could, no doubt, find out who asked what question with a little digging). The FTC has a 12-page Twitter policy that they linked to during the Q&A as well.

The FTC noted that Ed Felten, incoming CTO, was the individual who would be answering the day’s questions.

All-in-all, the FTC answered 17 user-submitted questions over the course of about an hour and a half. Here are a handful of the most interesting Twitter-submitted questions and answers:

Q2 – “What will any #dntrack enforcement be? Who? Remedies?”
A2 – “Enforcement must be key part of #dntrack. If companies say they honor choices & don’t, FTC would enforce.”

The FTC is willing to stand behind its proposed Do Not Track legislation, and give it some teeth in the coming weeks and months while the report is implemented. The Do Not Track proposal has been likened to the Do Not Call list to get people off of telemarketer call lists, which is also policed by the FTC.

Q4 – “What tracking choices would companies be required to offer? Would choices have to be listed in online privacy policies?”
A4 – “A key part of proposed framework is that info about choices should be presented more clearly, not buried in privacy policies.”

This transparency would be welcomed by much of the social networking public, we bet. Being able to clearly find out how your information will be tracked, recorded and stored – and opt out – will become increasingly important as we move more and more of our personal information to the social web.

There were also several questions about different aspects of the cost of implementing these proposed privacy recommendations, with the FTC simply replying that they are seeking comments from people on this matter. Gov20.GovFresh has the full list of questions and answers.

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