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Rockefeller: Privacy Self-Regulation Is One-Sided

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, The Need for Privacy
Protections: Is Industry Self-Regulation Adequate?, advertisers took aim at
Microsoft's decision to make do-not-track a default setting in its new browser.

Bob Liodice, president of the Association of National
Advertisers, said in a testimony that the "unilateral decision" by
one browser company could cause confusion and would "profoundly, adversely
impact the broad array of advertising-supported services they currently widely

Under pressure from the administration, the Digital
Advertising Alliance - -Liodice was speaking for them at the hearing -- adopted
a voluntary opt-in, do-not-track mechanism.

The hearing Thursday was a follow-up to a May 9 hearing in
the committee on the Administration's proposed privacy Bill of Rights.

Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) signaled he
did not think self-regulation was sufficient. He asked at the hearing whether
the government should not step in to help hungry children, but wait for the
marketplace to take care of them, suggesting there was a parallel in the
committee's focus on online consumer privacy. Rockefeller is particularly
concerned about kids online tracking and data collection.

"I have learned that self-regulation is inherently
one-sided, and that the interests of consumers are often sacrificed for the
demands of the bottom-line," he said in opening the hearing. "Until
consumers are adequately protected, I will continue to push for legislation,
and hold hearings, to address this imbalance."

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) raised questions about the
potential risks if Congress were to adopt an overly restrictive model of
privacy protections.

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom and an opponent of
default do-not-track, answered that it the Federal Trade Commission and the
Administration pressure industry to adopt a default mechanism, it could change
the how nature of the Internet "from today's low-friction, flat ecosystem
of independent sites and services funded by impersonal data collection to one
with fewer players who collect more data."

Ohio State Law Professor Peter Swire said that if the U.S.
did not protect privacy, it could get locked out of international markets that
do have such protections.  Alex Fowler of Mozilla said that he was not
ready to say the U.S. should adopt a European-style model, but suggested it
already had one since U.S. companies had to respect that regime when
interacting with European countries.

Liodice said that if the U.S. government extends its
do-not-track reach to far through legislation, it could hurt cybersecurity or
antifraud efforts by limiting information currently available to law
enforcement. Rockefeller countered that that was a red herring.

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.