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Privacy Tug Of War Intensifying

Speaking during a Wednesday Webcast sponsored by Ernst & Young, Federal Trade Commissioner Mozelle Thompson said it's imperative that businesses themselves rigorously assess how and what data is collected and plainly tell consumers what they learn.
The Bush administration is leaning more toward self-regulation when it comes to consumer privacy, but consumer advocates are still pushing hard for government action.

Speaking during a Wednesday Webcast sponsored by Ernst & Young, Federal Trade Commissioner Mozelle Thompson said it's imperative that businesses themselves rigorously assess how and what data is collected and plainly tell consumers what they learn. And in case that implied threat was missed, "there are many pending privacy bills in Congress right now," he warned. With Democrats again controlling the Senate, "privacy is being put back on the front burner."

As if to underscore the point, the Center for Digital Democracy issued a study Wednesday that attacks the interactive-TV industry for using set-top boxes that can collect personally identifying information about consumers. Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog group, says interactive TV components that can let viewers shop, send E-mail, listen to music, and receive targeted ads from their TVs are both intrusive and manipulative.

The devices give consumers' limited notification and choice about what personal information is collected and how it's used. Says Chester, "I'm concerned that the public is not being allowed to decide whether the set-top boxes sitting in everyone's living room should be allowed to eavesdrop.

What's the proper balance between privacy and commercial need to know? Join the discussion at the Listening Post's Talk Shop forum.