This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a preliminary staff report that proposes a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation to develop beneficial products and services.
Adobe would support and participate in any industry initiative to foster clear, meaningful, and persistent choice regarding online tracking for purposes that are not obvious in context or commonly accepted, as described in the FTC report. This includes the “tracking” of user preferences by third parties for advertising purposes using local storage capabilities (such as Flash Local Shared Objects, often referred to as “Flash cookies” in the public and confused with Web browser cookies), which were not designed for this purpose. Adobe has repeatedly stated publicly that we condemn such practices because they clearly circumvent the user’s expressed choice. The public comment Adobe submitted in preparation for the FTC’s second privacy roundtable discussion, which took place on January 28, 2010, reflects our position.
Adobe recently commissioned a study to follow up on the findings about misuses of Flash Player local storage that were detailed in a research paper released by the University of California at Berkeley in 2009. The new study, performed by a reputable university and a non-profit privacy organization, is designed to determine how prevalent the use of Flash Player local storage to respawn browser cookies is in light of all the publicity on this topic over the last year. Results from the study are promising and show that respawning is negligible on the Web today. The study is expected to be released before the end of the year.
Adobe recognizes the importance of protecting user privacy and continuously works on new ways to help ensure the consumer’s right to privacy. As an example, Flash Player 10.1, released in June 2010, supports the private browsing mode found in many browsers, which allows users to browse the Web without storing any browsing history on the user’s computer, including local storage data. Among other improvements, Adobe is also working with the browser developers to better coordinate local storage management with browser privacy management settings. Today, Google Chrome already provides access to Flash Player local storage settings from within the browser’s privacy controls. Adobe anticipates that future versions of Google Chrome and other browsers will include the ability for users to view and clear their local storage data directly through the browser privacy management interface.
MeMe Jacobs Rasmussen
Chief Privacy Officer
Adobe Systems Incorporated