Follow up the federal Do Not Call registry with a Do Not Track list for those who shop online from home and elsewhere.
That's the appeal from consumer agencies to the Federal Trade Commission after a compilation of several academic studies revealed online "privacy policies" at ecommerce sites are not what users think they are -- often because they don't take the time to read them.
With no Do Not Track service in place as the holiday shopping frenzy ensues in households from coast-to-coast, reading privacy policies is consumers' best bet to learn what happens to their information when they shop online.
In fact, "privacy policies" typically explain common ecommerce practices, those perfectly legal information-collection techniques that are the foundation of online advertising business models, according to the report of surveys co-compiled by the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication and University of California-Berkeley Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic.
"They assume the website cannot engage in many practices that, in reality, are common in ecommerce. Consumers do not understand the nature and legality of information-collection techniques that form the core of online advertising business models," according to the report.
Consumers also believe privacy policies prohibit "enhancement" -- the common practice of collecting data and combining it with information from other sources.
However, when information-gathering techniques -- the process of tracking, extracting and sharing information to make money from advertising -- were explained to consumers, 85 percent overwhelmingly rejected the privacy they give up in exchange for access to content.
When offered a choice to get content from a valued site with such a policy or pay for the site and not have it collect information, 54 percent of adults who go online at home said that they would rather use legwork and search for information offline than exercise either option presented.
Consumers are also responsible for taking steps to keep private information as close to the vest as possible.