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Senate Tees Up 'Do Not Track' Oversight

The Majority staff memo for the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on an online "do not track" (DNT) regime makes it clear that the hearing will address government oversight of voluntary initiatives, as well as a bill from the chairman mandating such a regime.

In March, committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) reintroduced legislation that would require companies who collect personal information online to get the affirmative permission of the person whose information is being collected. Violators could be fined up to $15 million.

He said last week in announcing the oversight hearing that industry needs to do more, a point also made by new Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

According to the memo for the April 24 hearing - the committee's first online privacy hearing in the new Congress - the issues it plans to address include online behavioral advertising self-regulatory principles, the online ad industry's icon-based DNT opt-out offerings, browser-based DNT options, the ongoing development of a worldwide DNT standard from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Obama Administration's Privacy Bill of Rights, which suggested that DNT was one way to provide consumers with control over their information.

The W3C standard is expected to create and define technical specs for DNT preferences, and devise a format for compiling lists of individuals who want to block or allow tracking.

FTC Chair Ramirez backs the W3C effort, the memo points out.