The Obama administration asked Congress to pass a privacy bill of rights implementing a Do Not Track policy for Web browsing and giving users control of their data online in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.
The Obama administration wants Congress to pass an Internet privacy bill
that will control how much information Internet marketing firms can collect as
people surf the Internet.
Lawrence E. Strickling, an assistant secretary of commerce, proposed the
legislation at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on March 16,
according to Capitol Hill's "Hillicon
Valley" blog. Internet privacy legislation should follow the
guidelines outlined in a Commerce
Department report released last December, he said.
Department report accused Facebook, Google and other Web companies of not
being up front with customers about what information was being collected and
shared with advertisers. The Commerce Department suggested companies ask for
permission before using personal data.
Any kind of Internet privacy bill would need to expand the Federal Trade
Commission's powers so that the regulatory agency would be able to enforce the
new provisions, Strickling said.
The administration also wants to see a "privacy bill of rights" to
prevent information from being used for any purpose unless the customer gives
explicit permission, he said. Under the proposal, Web services will no longer
be legally able to sell information that the user entered on an online
registration form by default.
The bill should also require Internet companies to store the information
securely but still allow users to access their information at any time, according
to Strickling. However, he did not go into much detail about how much, or
which, information would need to be displayed. Many sites already offer users
the ability to review registration information, but almost no sites have a
mechanism for users to see the information collected by browser cookies. The
user's visited sites, location and Internet address are a valuable source of
information for data miners.
There are already privacy bills under way in the Senate, sponsored by
Senators John McCain of Arizona
and John Kerry of Massachusetts.
At the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill asked about the economic impact and "unintended
consequences" if tough limitations are imposed on online companies.
"If consumers have more trust on the Internet, they are going to do
more business on the Internet, as well," Leibowitz said.
The FTC called for a Do Not Track system developed
by the private sector in December. The latest moves by Microsoft
and Mozilla in their Web browsers show this is a "viable" option,
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at the hearing.
"Consumers deserve meaningful and not illusory control over what
companies can do with their personal information," he said.