Congressman promises Internet privacy bill with do-not-track program for youth
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Thursday that he plans to introduce a privacy bill next year aimed at protecting youth from being tracked online.
The bill would include a do-not-track feature that would block marketers and prevent youth from having their personal identification collected or profiled on the Web, Markey said during a House hearing to deliberate a “Do Not Track” program recommended by privacy groups.
“For many kids today, the Internet is like online oxygen – they can’t live without it,” Markey said during the hearing. “But kids growing up in this online environment also need protection from dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”
Markey’s proposal focuses on children and wouldn’t cover all Internet users.
Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission recommended a do-not-track mechanism – most likely through a Web browser – as one way to better protect Internet users from behavioral advertising.
Advertisers, however, have criticized the idea, saying they are implementing their own online tools that would give users more options to protect their data from third-party marketers and Web sites. Among those is an icon that appears on Web pages that users can click on to opt out of data collection.
Mike Zaneis, senior vice president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said in an interview that Web sites such as Yahoo and others have begun implementing the icon. To force companies to adopt browser technology that lets Web sites know not to collect information about users, he said, would be technologically and financially burdensome.
“The concept would mean pivoting midstream when we are launching a program which is successful,” Zaneis said.
He also said the idea of stopping the tracking of individuals is a “false promise.” Companies that count traffic for Web sites such as washingtonpost.com, could be blocked from access to user activity, he said. That could hurt the advertising and media industry, which depends on such partners, he said.
But FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said Wednesday that a plan for a browser-based do-not-track mechanism could be mandated through legislation or developed voluntarily by companies and enforced by the FTC. He said Google, Mozilla and Microsoft have already experimented with such technology, which would likely involve “persistent cookies” that are used to inform sites of user’s privacy preferences.
So far, self-regulation -- which IAB members Google, IAC, NBC Universal and others support -- has fallen short, he said.
In its list of recommendations to beef up consumer protection online, the FTC wrote:
Although many of these companies manage consumer information responsibly, some appear to treat it in an irresponsible or even reckless manner. And while recent announcements of privacy innovations by a range of companies are encouraging, many companies – both online and offline – do not adequately address consumer privacy interests.
| December 2, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories: FTC, Privacy
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