Jeff Chester

Privacy advocates and trade groups are clashing over how to build consumer protections into the fast-growing data broker industry as they await the results of two long-running investigations that could shape Washington’s approach to the sector. Both the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee launched studies of data brokers last year, seeking information about how the firms operate and do business. The reviews, which are ongoing, have targeted companies including Acxiom, Experian and Datalogix, which collect information about people from sources online and offline and sell it to other businesses

The ad industry's privacy group just may have sounded the death knell for the worldwide Do Not Track initiative. The Digital Advertising Alliance announced it will depart the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group. That's the broad collective of privacy advocates, technologists, ad industry representatives and lawyers who have struggled over the past two years to define online tracking and determine a standard for a browser-based do-not-track mechanism, to no avail. "If you measure it by progress, it's dead."

The advertising industry suffered a setback late last night when the Tracking Protection Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium rejected the Digital Advertising Alliance's draft proposal for a universal Do Not Track standard. Instead, the 110-member group will work from another, more comprehensive, document—referred to as the June draft—that even privacy advocates believe faces insurmountable obstacles to adoption by the deadline at the end of this month. For two years, the TPWG has tied itself up in knots in trying to bring diverse interests together to agree to a universal browser-based mechanism for Internet users

The Commerce Department will convene a broad array of online companies and advocates next month to attempt to reach a consensus on privacy guidelines for mobile apps. The meeting, slated for July 12, marks the first in a series of "multi-stakeholder" meetings aimed at reaching a consensus on privacy issues. The goal of the process is "to develop a code of conduct to provide transparency in how companies providing applications and interactive services for mobile devices handle personal data," the National Telecommunications & Information Administration stated.

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