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SpeierIntroduces Do Not Track Bill

As advertised, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill to protect personal information online by directing the Federal Trade Commission to develop a do not track mechanism that would allow consumers to opt out of online data collection and require marketers and trackers to "respect" that choice.

There would be carve-outs for common information collection practices like billing information. "People have a right to surf the web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world," Speier said in introducing the bill (the Do Not Track Me Online Act [H.R. 654]). "The internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers' protections to keep pace."

The FTC is currently preparing a final report on online privacy practices, but its chairman, Jon Leibowitz,has indicated he would prefer industry to take the lead in creating a flexible privacy protection approach, though he has not ruled out supporting legislation if industry does not do so.

"It's crucial that Americans have as much control over their online privacy as possible and this bill is a
welcome and important first step toward that goal," said ACLU Legislative Counsel Christopher Calabrese . Signing on to the Internet shouldn't mean signing away your privacy. Americans must have a mechanism in place to opt out of having their online habits tracked so that they can protect their most sensitive information. A ‘do not track' list is a logical and common sense place to start."

Also backing the bill are the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Action, U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, World Privacy Forum, and the Center for Digital Democracy.

Speier's bill follows by a day the reintroduction by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) of his online privacy/choice bill. The bill does not include a do not track regime and is essentially the same as one he introduce last July. It would require companies to get Web surfers' permission to collect sensitive information--health, finances--or share less sensitive (but still personal) information with third parties. It would require an opt-out regime for other personal information collection.
The bill would require companies to provide "concise, meaningful, timely, prominent, and easy-to-understand notice to users about their privacy policies, including what information is being collected and why. Among the criticisms of current online privacy policies is that they are buried inside lengthy statements.

The bill would not apply some of its requirements if a company "participates in a Safe Harbor Self-Regulatory Choice Program approved by FTC."