Commentary

FTC Hires Privacy Blogger

In yet another sign that the Federal Trade Commission is serious about examining online privacy, Christopher Soghoian said today that he's accepted a job as technical consultant to the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.

Soghoian, currently with Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is among the most influential researchers today when it comes to online privacy and advertising.

"David Vladeck, the new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection recently told the New York Times that 'he would hire technologists to help analyze online marketers' tracking.' I guess that means people like me," Soghoian said on his blog.

Last month, Soghoian published an open letter to Network Advertising Initiative executive director Charles Curran complaining about big variations in the expiration periods of members' opt-out cookies. "The opt out cookies for some sites last as little as six months, while others last as long as sixty years," he wrote. "This variability is not communicated to consumers, and as a result, many are unlikely to know that they must revisit the NAI web site and re-opt out every six months in order to maintain total opt out coverage."

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One week later, Soghoian reported that Curran contacted him to say the NAI intends to require that all members arrange for opt-out cookies to last at least five years.

"While it is quite fun to see the industry scrambling to perform emergency damage control in response to my blog posts, it is pretty pathetic that I had to do this at all," he wrote. "This multi-billion online advertising industry should not depend upon a single graduate student to keep it honest."

1 comment about "FTC Hires Privacy Blogger".
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  1. Robert Zager from iconix, inc., August 17, 2009 at 11:22 p.m.

    It would be interesting to see commentary on the effectiveness of consumer protection, if any, provided by the private modes of modern browsers. Are consumers who care about privacy actually accomplishing what they seek to accomplish?

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