Boucher Proposes Opt-In/Opt-Out Online Privacy Regime

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has released a discussion draft of
his privacy legislation that combines and opt-in/opt-out regime for the collection
of personal data for targeted marketing and advertising.

The bill would require Web users to opt in to collection of
sensitive information relating to financial and medical information, sexual
orientation, "precise geographic locations, or social security numbers. It
would also mandate opt-in for sharing information with unaffiliated third
parties, other than for an operational or transactional purpose, which users
would have to opt out of.

The bill would allow the collection of other types of
information about individuals unless they opt out, but it would require
companies that collect personally identifiable information to conspicuously and
clearly make that fact known so that users could opt out or in, depending on
the type of info.

The "transactional" carve-out is for third-party
ad networks that collect information from various Web sites in order to create
profiles and target ads based on preferences. Boucher has said before that such
tailored advertising can be beneficial. "Opt-out consent would apply to
sharing of an individual's information with a third-party ad network if there
is a clear, easy-to-find link to a webpage for the ad network that allows a
person to edit his or her profile and, if he chooses, to opt out of having a
profile, provided that the ad network does not share the individual's information
with anyone else."

Boucher gave a shout-out to online ads in announcing the
draft's release. "Online advertising supports much of the commercial content,
applications and services that are available on the Internet today without
charge, and this legislation will not disrupt this well-established and
successful business model. It simply extends to consumers important baseline
privacy protections," Boucher said.

The Federal Trade Commission would be charged with
implementing and enforcing the online privacy rules, which states also free to
enforce those rules.

The bill would not require consent for use of transactional
data--web logs and cookies--or to use anonymous aggregate data to target users.

The bill has been one of his legislative priorities since he
took over as chair of the House Communications Subcommittee.

While it is only a discussion draft, Boucher said that the
bill "reflects broad areas of consensus among the members who are
circulating it today."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.