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Privacy advocates target online advertisers

May 3, 2010 |  5:38 pm

A coalition of consumer and privacy groups is taking its fight for online consumer privacy to Capitol Hill. In their sights: online advertising practices and behavioral targeting. In a joint letter to Congress, the groups warn that tracking and targeting of consumers have reached “alarming levels.”

They say they want legislation, not self-regulation. The coalition includes the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

They made their case one day before Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House subcommittee on communications, technology and the Internet, introduces a consumer online privacy bill.

“Consumers need rights, and profiling should have limits,” the groups wrote.

Among their goals for legislation to protect consumers’ online privacy: Consumers should have the right to know if websites have information on them, to obtain a copy of the data and to request that the data be removed. The groups also want websites to keep consumer data for no more than 24 hours without the consent of the consumer. They don't want websites to be allowed to collect sensitive information such as health records, financial records, race, sexual orientation, personal relationships or political activity.

Facebook has monopolized the privacy spotlight with its recent moves. But privacy advocates say they are going after industrywide practices.

-- Jessica Guynn