US lawmakers plan ‘Do Not Track’ bills

© AFP/File Frederic J. Brown


WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers announced plans on Friday to introduce “Do Not Track” legislation that would let Internet users block companies from gathering information about their online activities.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, said his “Do Not Track Online Act of 2011” will offer a “simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their every move on the Internet.”

“Consumers have a right to know when and how their personal and sensitive information is being used online — and most importantly to be able to say ‘no thanks’ when companies seek to gather that information without their approval,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

In the House of Representatives, Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, and Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, released a draft of a separate “Do Not Track” bill aimed at protecting children online.

US senators John Kerry and John McCain introduced an online privacy bill last month that would require companies gathering data to allow a consumer to “opt-out” of having their information collected.

The former Democratic and Republican presidential candidates said their bipartisan bill seeks to strike a balance between protecting the personal information of Web users and the needs of businesses to conduct electronic commerce.

The flurry of legislation comes amid a series of high-profile data theft incidents, including the theft of personal information from more than 100 million Sony accounts, and controversy over tracking technology in Apple’s iPhone and in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Apple and Google have been invited to attend a congressional hearing on privacy next week following claims the iPhone and Android devices regularly track a user’s location and stores the data.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said his bill would create a “legal obligation” for all online companies to honor the choice of consumers who say they do not want to be tracked online.

It would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to pursue any company that does not honor the request.

Barton and Markey, the co-chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said their “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011” establishes new protections for the personal information of children and teenagers.

“For millions of kids today, the Internet is their new 21st century playground,” Markey said in a statement. “But kids growing up in this online environment also need protection from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”

Barton said the Internet has “transformed into an invaluable educational, research and entertainment tool, but with the good comes the bad.

“I strongly believe that information should not be collected on children and used for commercial purposes,” he said.

The bill would notably require online companies to obtain parental consent before collecting children’s personal information and prohibit them from using personal information of children and teens for targeted marketing.

It would also create an “Eraser Button” for parents and children that would allow users to eliminate publicly available personal information content “when technologically feasible.”

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy welcomed the bill, saying “young people are targets of a powerful digital data collection system, tracking them wherever they are — on mobile phones, social networks, playing games, or browsing the Web.

“We need a 21st century privacy law that protects children and teens,” Chester said.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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