‘Do Not Track Me Online’ privacy bill introduced by California Rep. Jackie Speier

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The first ‘do not track’ legislation was introduced in Congress on Friday, raising the possibility that Web users will be able to prevent advertisers from recording their online behavior for marketing purposes, similar to the Do Not Call Registry created in 2003.

The bill, called the ‘Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011,’ would give the Federal Trade Commission the right to create regulations that would force online marketers to respect the wishes of users who did not want to be tracked.


‘Failure to do so would be considered an unfair or deceptive act punishable by law,’ noted a statement from the office of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who is sponsoring the bill.

Speier also introduced a second bill that would enable consumers to better control financial information collected about them by banks and other institutions. That bill includes a provision that would prevent companies from sharing consumer financial information without explicit pre-approval from the consumer, a process known as opting in.

“These two bills send a clear message — privacy over profit,” Speier said in a statement. “Consumers have a right to determine what if any of their information is shared with big corporations, and the federal government must have the authority and tools to enforce reasonable protections.”

In recent weeks, several browser-makers have said they will add mechanisms that make it more difficult for advertisers to track user behavior.

Google’s Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft’s newer Internet Explorer 9 will have some protections built in, but critics say those features are not always easy for the average user to operate, nor do they block every type of tracking.

In December, the FTC released a report urging for stronger online privacy controls, including a Do Not Track mechanism. The Commerce Department also recommended stronger controls, but stopped short of recommending legislation.



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-- David Sarno [follow]