The past year has seen a flurry of debate and discussion about what policymakers should do to protect Web users’ privacy. Then again, so have the past several years, with each bringing new calls from public-interest advocacy groups who want lawmakers and regulators to get serious about the issue.
And so began 2010. Facebook was in the midst of a controversy over a set of recent changes to its privacy controls, a familiar situation the company found itself in again a few months later. Around that time, Google, a perennial target of the privacy advocates, found itself enmeshed in its own privacy imbroglio after the company’s Street View cars vacuumed up unsuspecting users’ Internet transmissions.
For advocates of privacy rules restricting how much information Internet companies and advertisers can collect about Web users, 2010 began with great promise.
After all, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was in the midst of a series of online privacy roundtables, convening industry representatives, academics and advocacy groups to gather information as it prepared a comprehensive report promising policy recommendations for a curtailed data-collection regime.