FTC shows little interest in 'Do Not Track' mandate

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Then-FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz endorsed the voluntary system, but he warned that if the companies failed to implement Do Not Track, mandatory regulations would be necessary.

But talks between advertisers, browser makers and privacy groups have stalled, and more than a year and a half after the announcement, there is still no agreement on how to let users opt out of online tracking. 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has accused the Internet companies of breaking their promise and has introduced legislation that would give the FTC the authority to punish companies that do not offer Do Not Track. 

In an interview with The Hill this week, Ramirez said she is still "hopeful" that the industry talks will lead to an agreement, and is not ready to call for legislative action.

"There may be a solution that can be achieved. That doesn't mean to say that I'm willing to be waiting endlessly," Ramirez said.

At a public discussion on Tuesday, Brill, a Democrat, acknowledged that many people have given up on the industry talks ever producing a solution.

"I'm not certain that's the case," she said. "I do know that it's been a difficult and hard conversation, but I think that's because there are a lot of very important issues at stake." 

She praised other voluntary steps that companies have taken to give users more control over how their private information is handled.

Wright, a Republican commissioner, said he doesn't have a "dog in the fight" of whether the industry should even adopt a voluntary Do Not Track standard. 

"I have less enthusiasm I think than the commission as a whole for having the FTC play any particularly strong role in encouraging that to come out one way or another or influencing its content," Wright said.