The New York Times has an opinion column about online privacy protections:
Internet companies have a worrisome leeway to use data they glean about the people who use their services. Despite bipartisan concern about potential abuses, Congress has not acted to protect consumer privacy, and there is little chance legislation will pass anytime soon. So the Federal Trade Commission has stepped into the breach to set minimum standards of behavior — pursuing companies for deceiving consumers about how they will use names, e-mails and browsing habits.
The F.T.C. is near to reaching a settlement with Facebook over practices that included misleading users about its data use. The charges stem from changes that Facebook made to its privacy settings in December 2009, urging users to share everything with everybody and providing confusing directions about how to keep information private. […]
Neither the F.T.C. nor Facebook would confirm the settlement talks. But the deal reportedly awaits only final approval from the commission. It follows a similar agreement in March to settle charges that Google deceived consumers when it populated a new service called Buzz with information from their Gmail accounts. Google also agreed to have its privacy program audited every other year for the next 20 years.
Much more remains to be done to protect consumers’ privacy as Internet companies hone their tools to analyze and make money off us and our browsing habits.
Congress should act on the F.T.C.’s recommendation to establish a system that would allow consumers to effectively opt out of all tracking of their online activities.