US Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz is pushing for a Do Not Track register, to prevent online marketing companies from tracking the activities of internet users.
Akin to the wildly popular Do Not Call register, the potential enforcement program will be fleshed out along with two less controversial strategies in coming months.
“One idea we may explore in the context of behavioural advertising is a Do Not Track mechanism that’s more comprehensive and easier to use than the procedures currently available, usually through a browser,” Leibowitz told a Senate Committee in the United States.
“Under such a mechanism, consumers could opt out of behavioural advertising more easily rather than having to make choices on a website by website basis.”
Leibowitz aired the FTC’s idea during a testimony he delivered to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, regarding privacy in the context of cloud computing, mobile devices and social networks.
He delivered his testimony alongside executives from Apple, Google, Facebook and AT&T, who were placed on separate panel.
Leibowitz said the FTC's three broad recommendations - including the Do Not Track register - were derived from a series of roundtables with consumers it had conducted.
Leibowitz reported that the Do Not Call register had been acknowledged as a major enforcement success - its popularity compared within the FTC to the 'Elvis stamp' - which was voted on by over one million Americans and printed over 500 million times.
The U.S. Do Not Call register contains some 200 million registrants, roughly a third of the country.
Over four million Australians - around one-fifth of the population - had signed up to a similar Do Not Call register in Australia by May 2010.
Dr Guy Tribble, vice president of software technology at Apple told the committee the computer maker was "strongly committed to giving our customers clear notice and control over their information".
Facebook's chief technology officer, Bret Taylor, said its users were the driving force behind Facebook and that its goal was to make it simple for people to connect and control their information.
Dr Alma Whitten, Google's privacy engineering lead said the whole company thought about privacy every day.
"If we fail to offer clear, usable privacy controls and strong security, our users will simply leave,” she said.