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Will voluntary guidelines for Web companies protect online privacy?

February 24, 2012

Amid recent controversial practices by Web companies, the Obama administration has announced voluntary guidelines to protect consumer privacy online. As The Washington Post reports, the guidelines are a win for Google, Facebook and other Internet giants that have fought against tougher federal mandates. Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL have also agreed to voluntarily embed “do not track” buttons in Web browsers.

The administration said that users should have more control over the data companies gather about them and that consumers should be able to limit the collection of their personal information. “Consumers must feel secure,” President Obama said in a statement. The Federal Trade Commission will police companies that agree to the guidelines, the Post reports.

In an example of recent controversial Web practices, as of week Google will reportedly begin pulling data from all of its sites to create profiles of users who have signed into their accounts. Critics, including privacy advocates and members of Congress, have accused the search giant of circumventing privacy protections on mobile-device browsers to track consumer activities. According to the Post, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL have urged government officials not to hamper their ability to tap the lucrative behavioral-marketing business. Google, Apple and most mobile-app developers reportedly don't offer any information on how they collect data about users. — Greg Beaubien


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