Consumer privacy bill tackles online targeting and tracking
Lawmakers released an early draft of a bill that would regulate how websites collect information about visitors and use that information to target advertising to them.
The legislation, proposed by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), would also give consumers the right to opt out of behavioral targeting.
"Our legislation confers privacy rights on individuals, informing them of the personal information that is collected and shared about them and giving them greater control over the collection, use and sharing of that information," Boucher, who heads the House subcommittee that handles Internet issues, said in a written statement. "Our goal is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to Internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure."
Privacy watchdogs have been pushing Congress for legislation and have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize behavioral targeting. The legislation more than a year in the making would require websites to get consumers' explicit consent before collecting information. They would also have to disclose how they are using data they collect and how it is being shared.
Center for Democracy & Technology President Leslie Harris pointed out that it has been nearly a decade since Congress last considered consumer privacy legislation.
"Since that time, commercial collection and use of consumer information both online and off has increased exponentially," Harris said in a statement. "Consumers deserve comprehensive privacy protection. Today’s release of the staff discussion draft of the Boucher-Stearns consumer privacy bill is the first step to achieving this important goal."
Business groups have expressed deep reservations about a bill that would regulate Web advertising, which has grown to be a $23-billion market. Privacy groups say online advertisers cannot be allowed to continue to self-regulate. The groups plan to air their objections in a conference call Tuesday.
The legislation comes amid a growing furor over online privacy. Some consumers complain that they don't know what information is being collected and how it is being used.
-- Jessica Guynn