Originally published in Website Magazine, on January 18, 2013.

It is a safe prediction for 2013 that public awareness of websites’ data privacy issues will continue to increase. In the last few years, popular websites, including Google and Facebook, have been almost constantly in the news regarding alleged privacy violations. For example, in 2012 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the primary federal regulator of privacy issues in the U.S., settled privacy violations with several prominent companies, including a record $22.5 million settlement with Google regarding its misrepresentation of privacy assurances to users of Apple’s Safari browser. In another prominent case, the FTC entered into a settlement with an online advertising network that had secretly gathered data from millions of consumers. In addition, the FTC alleged in a complaint that the default settings of a file-sharing application, which allowed sharing of all existing files on the device with people in the consumer’s immediate vicinity and throughout the world, was an example of “unfair design.”

When used in conjunction with website design, “privacy” typically refers to the protection of a user’s personal data in reference to certain “Fair Information Principles” or FIPs. FIPs typically include limits on the collection, processing and use of personal data, limits on data retention, notice to users, individual choice or consent regarding the collection and subsequent use of personal data and transparent data processing.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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