David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

A Place to Complain about Internet Privacy

Campaign takes shape to gather complaints and get Congress to pass privacy laws.

  • December 3, 2009

Don’t like what a website has done with your personal information? Don’t understand its privacy policies? A new privacy complaint site is now open for business–created by an Internet freedom and privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. called the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

The Take Back Your Privacy site offers simple ways to file complaints.

Complaints can be shared with your social network via sites like Twitter and Facebook, and also forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If enough complaints surface, it’s possible that the FTC will launch an investigation into whether a website is violate existing laws.

The larger point is to create a cudgel to get Congress interested in enacting comprehensive Internet privacy legislation. CDT has already put out a pretty good guide to online privacy problems, explaining existing and often narrowly-written patchwork of court rulings and laws, most of them falling hopelessly behind rapid technological advances.

“In the past ten years, the ability of Internet companies to collect and aggregate information has increased dramatically,” says Leslie Harris, the group’s president. But while some states have taken action, Congress has not. “We see next year as the first time in a decade that we will have serious debate in Congress on whether we will have comprehensive privacy laws.”

Among other things, says Harris, “we ought to have a tool that takes you out of online tracking; with one click, you delete all tracking devices that have been put on your computer.” Users should also have the power to force Internet companies to delete personal data, such as search requests, after the passage of a reasonable period of time, she adds.

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