'Do Not Track' Bill Introduced on Capitol Hill (Again)

By Erin Harrison May 10, 2011

The next of several other consumer online privacy bills was introduced on Capitol Hill this week that would allow Internet users to opt out of having their personal data collected and saved.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill on Monday that would require companies to refrain from collecting information about people who ask not to be tracked, Reuters reported. According to the report, providers would be able to collect information needed to provide a service, but would have to “anonymize or delete it” as soon as the service had been performed.

Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement: “I believe consumers have a right to decide whether their information can be collected and used online. This bill offers a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their movements online.”

Consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog praised Rockefeller’s efforts in this blog post. “U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller did the American people a great favor today by introducing the Do-Not-Track-Online Act of 2011,” wrote Jamie Court.

“We cannot be stalked as we shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Yet whatever we do online is tracked, usually without our knowledge and consent,” continued Court. “The data may help target advertising, but can also be used to make assumptions about people in connection with employment, housing, insurance and financial services; for purposes of lawsuits against individuals; and for government surveillance.”

In related news, tech companies Apple and Sony have been on the radar lately for possible privacy intrusions. Apple iPhones collect location data even when that activity was supposed to have been disabled. And Sony Corp. reported a breach last month that exposed personal data of more than 100 million of its online video game users. Sony has said it could not rule out that some 12.3 million credit card numbers had been obtained during the hacking, Reuters said.

Perhaps the fourth time will be the charm? Three other online privacy bills have been introduced – including those sponsored by Representatives Bobby Rush, Jackie Speier and Senators John McCain and John Kerry.

California, a state known to be sympathetic to consumers’ rights, is in the process of possibly passing a similar bill that would give people the right to opt out of being tracked online. The legislation passed its first hurdle in California as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move it forward in the Senate. The 3-to-2 vote came on May 3 after the committee held the first-in-the-nation hearing on “do not track” legislation, reported the group Consumer Watchdog.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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