FTC Do Not Track paper suffers "opt-in" concern

The FTC has released a paper this week which outlines how they'll be approaching a more private internet by the end of the year, the actions in this paper being approved by three out of four FTC Commissioners, Thomas Rosch being the most vocal of them all. As the lone FTC Commissioner who voted against the methods they'll be using throughout the year to ramp up to a "Do Not Track" button for web users by the end of 2012, Rosch made sure to be very clear on why he released a paper aside from the main announcement, saying "[it goes] well beyond what Congress has permitted the commission to do."

Drawing fears that the public will rebel against the measures they've outlined this week, Rosch noted that the commission promised the USA in the 1980s that it would do a certain number of things for their good, and that this set of actions was not following with their core beliefs. Rosche wrote:

"It would install 'Big Brother' as the watchdog over these practices not only in the online world but in the offline world. That is not only paternalistic, but it goes well beyond what the Commission said in the early 1980s that it would do, and well beyond what Congress has permitted the commission to do." – Rosche

He went on to note how concerned he was with the idea that an "opt-in" solution will not be the most wise one.

"Third, I am concerned that "opt-in" will necessarily be selected as the de facto method of consumer choice for a wide swath of entities that have a first-party relationship with consumers but who can potentially track consumers' activities across unrelated websites, under circumstances where it is unlikely, because of the "context" (which is undefined) for suchtracking to be "consistent" (which is undefined) with that first-party relationship:

1) companies with multiple lines of business that allow data collection in different contexts (such as Google);

2) "social networks," (such as Facebook and Twitter), which could potentially use "cookies," "plug-ins," applications, or other mechanisms to track a consumer's activities across the Internet;

and 3) "retargeters," (such as Amazon or Pacers), which include a retailer who delivers an ad on a third-party website based on the consumer's previous activity on the retailer's


You can read Rosche's full paper at The FTC in PDF form, and head down to our timeline to read the FTC paper in full as well. This won't be the last we've heard of this situation, I assure you!