But laws and regulations aren't the complete answer, so we need to encourage companies to compete on privacy and to develop and adhere to "best practices" that are transparent to regulators and build confidence in consumers. Recent announcements by major search engines to further cut the time that they hold on to personally identifiable search data are a step in the right direction.
Finally, consumers need to be in control of their personal information. Internet users must demand that companies develop new and expanded privacy controls for their products.
My organization recently released a report showing that browser developers are increasingly competing to offer better privacy controls. Such developments, however, are wasted if consumers don't learn to take control of their privacy, use existing methods to accomplish that task, and use marketplace demand to put pressure on developers to provide them with more robust and easier to use tools.
On Jan. 29, 2009, the United States, Canada and 27 European countries will celebrate International Data Privacy Day, intended to further discussion and education about privacy issues, particularly among teens. We should all observe that event by taking the time to learn about and use the privacy controls that are already available.
Leslie Harris is president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.