Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) argues in a column that FTC "activists" are backing regulations that "would threaten the lifeblood of the Internet: data." She goes on to say that the FTC's proposal, which she calls a "government firewall," would "effectively require an 'opt-in' approach before users could gain access to the digital economy."
In reality, the FTC is supporting no such thing. The agency's report on privacy recommends that Web companies develop a universal do-not-track mechanism that would empower consumers to easily opt out of anonymous online tracking. The ad industry already says it supports the concept that Web users should be able to avoid online ad targeting -- though some Web companies say they want to be able to collect data for frequency capping, analytics or fraud prevention regardless of whether consumers opt out.
In other words, the FTC and the ad industry are not that far apart on privacy. The biggest difference right now stems from whether ad companies should be able to collect data from users who would prefer otherwise. Even that isn't insurmountable. A recent study by Stanford researchers showed that at least 10 companies -- BlueKai, Yahoo's Dapper, FetchBack, Google, Invite Media, Media6Degrees, Mediaplex, Quantcast, TidalTV, and YuMe -- already allow users to opt out of data collection.