Some recent government actions related to privacy:
Nov. 29: The FTC announces settlement with Facebook. The social-networking site agrees to submit to government audits of its privacy practices every other year for the next two decades. The company commits to getting explicit approval from its users — a process known as “opting in” — before changing their privacy controls.
Feb. 16, 2012: The FTC issues a report complaining that software companies producing games and other mobile applications aren’t telling parents what personal information is being collected from kids and how companies are using it. It says apps could quietly be collecting a child’s location, phone number, call logs and lists of friends.
Wednesday: California announces a crackdown on nosy mobile applications, telling them they must give people advance warning if they want to keep pulling sensitive information from smartphones and tablet computers. Leading companies in mobile services, including Google, Apple and Microsoft, agree to require mobile apps seeking to collect personal information to forewarn users by displaying privacy policies before their services are installed on a device.
Thursday: The Obama administration calls for stronger privacy protections for consumers as mobile gadgets, Internet services and other tools are able to do a better job of tracking what you do and where you go. The administration issues a report in which it outlines a proposed “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” and urges technology companies, consumer groups and others to jointly craft new protections. Such guidelines will initially be voluntary for companies, but those that agree to abide by them could be subject to FTC sanctions for any violations.