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Privacy Bill Allows for 'Turning Off' Targeted Advertising

couple watching addressable advertising
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The discussion draft of a bipartisan data privacy bill has been circulated that would allow web users to "turn off" targeted advertising and take other steps to secure data privacy and protection.

The draft bill, which was unveiled Friday, is billed as the first such effort that has gotten bipartisan and bicameral (House and Senate) buy-in and one which requires "regulatory parity across the internet ecosystem."

The draft was circulated by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair and ranking members, respectively, of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, as well as Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Absent from the list of the draft's backers was Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, which was billed as from  "House and Senate leaders."

In a statement, Cantwell signaled she had more than a few issues with the bill. 

 “For American consumers to have meaningful privacy protection, we need a strong federal law that is not riddled with enforcement loopholes," she said. "Consumers deserve the ability to protect their rights on day one, not four years later [The bill provides a private right of action for violations, meaning users can sue, but only beginning four years after enactment of the act]. Americans also deserve a law that imposes a duty of loyalty on the companies that collect and monetize personal data so that the companies cannot abuse that data.”

The trio of draft backers did single out Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-I..), ranking member Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and "numerous members of the Senate Commerce Committee" for their leadership on the draft.

Also: IAB Tech Lab Launches GPP Global Ad Privacy Permissions Standard

On the targeted advertising front, the bill would require that consumers be given a "clear and conspicuous means" of opting out of such ads "prior to any targeted advertising and at all times afterwards."

It would also prevent targeted advertising to anyone under 17 if a covered entity has "actual knowledge" that the individual is 16 or younger. Those entities are also prevented from transferring covered data from anyone 13-17 to third parties without express consent.

To make sure that the government is paying close attention to how young people are being marketed online, the bill would create a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the Federal Trade Commission that "shall be responsible for addressing privacy and marketing concerns with respect to children and minors." The division will have to submit annual reports to Congress and add on-staff experts in "youth
development, data protection, digital advertising, and data analytics."

Other highlights of the draft:

The bill prevents the collection or use of data in a way that discriminates against anyone based on "race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability."

The bill requires data minimization on the front end, so no more data is collected than necessary for an allowable use.

The bill creates a generally opt-out data collection regime, except for certain sensitive data, for which users must give their permission first (opt in).

“We appreciate the bipartisan momentum in the U.S. Congress to advance U.S. privacy protections and look forward to reviewing the specifics of the draft bill released today,” said ITI: The Information Technology Industry Council President Jason Oxman following the draft's release. “For years, ITI has urged U.S. policymakers to enact a comprehensive federal privacy law that builds mutual trust, protects consumers, and supports continued innovation, and we will evaluate the bill with those objectives in mind.” ■

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.