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    AT&T Backs New Group Focusing on Privacy

    News sources are reporting that AT&T is funding a group to focus on standards for commercial use of consumer data. According to the Washington Post:

    The group, the Future of Privacy Forum, will be led by Jules Polonetsky, who until this month was in charge of AOL’s privacy policy, and Chris Wolf, a privacy lawyer for law firm Proskauer Rose. They say the organization, which is sponsored by AT&T, aims to develop ways to give consumers more control over how personal information is used for behavioral-targeted advertising.

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

    The group also is seeking funding from other companies and has a 23-member advisory board that includes people from Facebook, LexisNexis and advocacy groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology. A professor and privacy adviser to former President Bill Clinton, Peter Swire, who also is advising President-elect Barack Obama, is on the board as well.

    The group hopes to propose a privacy agenda for the Obama administration next week and plans to publish research and reports. One of the first topics will be to show people what happens to their data on the Internet.

    There has been increasing attention on companies’ gathering of consumer data (whether done secretively or not) and the various ways businesses are using the data. I’ve written previously about Web sites such as Facebook, Internet Service Providers, and search engines gathering personal data to create targeted advertisements.

    In the U.S., Charter Communications, CenturyTel Inc., WOW!, Broadstripe, and Metro Provider have all used controversial systems to track customers, according to a recent report (pdf) by Free Press and Public Knowledge. You can learn more about online behavioral advertising at the Center for Digital Democracy. You can read more about President-elect Obama’s plans for privacy policy in one of my previous posts.

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