Senate Bill Introduced Today To Protect Internet Privacy

April 12, 2011 12:00 am

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Bill Is Important First Step, Says ACLU

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WASHINGTON – A bill was introduced today in the Senate that would begin to create a framework for safeguarding consumers’ personal information online. Introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 is an important first step toward protecting Americans’ online privacy.

Today’s bill would require entities that collect information from more than 5,000 people annually, including most online companies, to provide privacy protections to their users. It would also give more consumers the power to opt out of some data collection and access information collected about them, and force companies to delete or no longer use consumers’ information once they sever their relationship with the company.

“For too long, Americans have been inadequately protected by piecemeal privacy laws containing broad gaps and loopholes. Technology has quickly outpaced our current protections, and we lack a resilient and rigorous framework for our online information and activities,” said Christopher Calabrese, American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Counsel.

Despite significant positive provisions, today’s bill would also still allow significant data collection and sharing between companies. It unfortunately does not include a “do not track” mechanism, which would allow consumers to opt out of having their online activity tracked, stored and shared with private companies for targeted advertising use. Currently, corporations can track individuals around the web, through social media and other sites. That information can be used to create detailed profiles about Americans’ complete online activities and can be sold to advertisers, employers or the even government.

The bill also contains an overbroad preemption provision which would hinder the ability of states to enact more protective legislation.

The ACLU commended Senators Kerry and McCain for introducing the bill and encouraged Congress to seek even stronger Internet privacy protections.

“While we believe that any final online privacy legislation needs to do more to limit information collection and sharing, including authorizing a ‘do not track’ mechanism, this bill is a positive first step in enacting comprehensive legislation because it begins give consumers control over their own personal information,” said Calabrese.

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