In a broad report issued Monday, the FTC echoed President Obama's call, issued a month ago, for a new law that would serve as a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, establishing a basic set of online privacy principles.
The agency also called specifically for a new law that would let consumers access, and dispute, personal and financial data collected and sold without their permission by giant data brokers, such as Acxiom.
"An important consensus is emerging on the need to take significant steps to protect online privacy rights," says John Simpson, spokesman for the non-profit Consumer Watchdog advocacy group.
On yet another high-profile privacy issue — online tracking to support advertising — FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said he was optimistic new industry standards honoring consumers' do-not-track preferences could be ready this year. The new rules are being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.
"We are confident that consumers will have an easy-to-use and effective do-not-track option by the end of the year because companies are moving forward expeditiously to make it happen and because lawmakers will want to enact legislation if they don't," Leibowitz says.
Consumer groups and privacy advocates were generally pleased with the FTC's recommendations. "The FTC is very clearly saying that they don't have authority to do all that they need to do to protect consumers," says Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Strong industry opposition for any new privacy laws is assured.
JenniferBarrett Glasgow, Acxiom's chief privacy officer, said the company would be "happy to engage in a dialogue" about the contents of any new law.
As for a privacy bill of rights or a do-not-track law, Michael Zaneis, general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, contends no clear consumer privacy concerns have been spelled out.
Contributing: The Associated Press.