A customer holds a white iPhone at the Apple store...

A customer holds a white iPhone at the Apple store on New York's Upper West Side. (April 28, 2011) Credit: AP

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday outlined a framework for how companies should address consumer privacy, pledging that consumers will have "an easy-to-use and effective" "Do Not Track" option by the end of the year.

The FTC's report comes a little over a month after the White House released a "privacy bill of rights" that called on companies to be more transparent about privacy and to grant consumers greater access to their data but that stopped short of backing a do-not-track rule.

The FTC also said it plans to work with Web companies and advertisers to implement an industry-designed do-not-track technology so as to avoid a federal law that mandates it. The Digital Advertising Alliance, which represents 90 percent of all websites with advertising, is working with the Commerce Department and FTC to create an icon that would provide users with an easy way to stop online tracking.

But the enforcement agency said that if the companies aren't able to get the technology launched by the end of the year, lawmakers should force those companies to offer consumers a similar option to stop tracking.

"Although some companies have excellent privacy and data securities practices, industry as a whole must do better," the FTC said.

In its report, the agency called on companies to obtain "affirmative express consent" from consumers before using data collected for a different purpose and to encourage Congress to consider baseline privacy legislation and measures on data security and data brokers.

The FTC also reiterated its recommendations that Congress pass legislation to provide consumers with access to their personal data that is held by companies that compile data for marketing purposes.

The 73-page report focuses heavily on mobile data. According to a recent report from Nielsen, 43 percent of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone.

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