Online Privacy

Top Ten Opt Out list updated

Opt-out and how-to — The popular WPF Top Ten Opt Out List has been newly updated. We have added a new section to our list with step by step details on how to opt out of RapLeaf. We encourage consumers to view any of their profiles that exist at RapLeaf and to opt out of RapLeaf permanently. We have also updated the phone numbers and other information on the rest of our opt out list. To see more, visit our Opt Out List.

Good privacy decision in Amazon v. Lay fight to keep customer information private

Resource | case file — Amazon.com filed a lawsuit in April to fight the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s request for detailed information on Amazon.com customers. The North Carolina tax department requested Amazon.com to hand over “all information for all sales to customers with a North Carolina shipping address” between 2003 to 2010. In the decision, Seattle, Washington U.S. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman wrote, “Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously.” She also stated that “The fear of government tracking and censoring one\’s reading, listening, and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights.” This is an important decision for privacy rights, and online privacy in particular.

World Privacy Forum testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Congressional testimony — WPF executive director Pam Dixon testified at a joint subcommittee hearing focused on privacy and the collection and use of online and offline consumer information. Dixon’s testimony focused on the new “modern permanent record” and how it is used and created. Dixon said “The merging of offline and online data is creating highly personalized, granular profiles of consumers that affect consumers’ opportunities in the marketplace and in their lives. Consumers are largely unaware of these profiles and their consequences, and they have insufficient legal rights to change things even if they did know.” The testimony explored concrete examples of problematic consumer profiling activities.

Public Comments: August 2009 – WPF files comments on government use of web tracking technologies

The World Privacy Forum filed comments with the Office of Management and Budget regarding its proposal to begin to allow the use of tracking cookies on government web sites. The proposal was published in the Federal Register, and outlined a three-tiered plan for how web tracking technologies might be used. The Forum’s comments focused on methods of opt-out, data retention, secondary use, user authentication, new tracking technologies such as Flash cookies, and the need for new opt-out mechanisms. The Forum also urged the federal government to not allow third party tracking of consumers’ use of government web sites, and to guard against any discrimination against consumers who do not want to be tracked.

Facebook, MySpace, Xing receive warning letters from EU consumer group

Social networks — In the wake of Europe’s Article 29 Working Party Opinion on Social Network Providers adopted in June, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) has sent out warning letters to five social networking providers in Germany, including Facebook and MySpace. The letters focus on the excessive rights the companies allow themselves in their respective Terms of Use agreements, and on shortcomings in the privacy policies. VZBV is comprised of 41 German consumer associations.