The push for governmental regulation of privacy continued with Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) announcing his intention to introduce Senate legislation next term and testimony by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz indicating that the agency is considering the creation of a “Do-Not-Track” registry.
Leibowitz testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about the FTC’s efforts to protect consumer privacy, referencing a recent enforcement action against Twitter and a series of roundtables on privacy held by the Commission over the winter.
Based in part upon what the Commission learned during the roundtables, Leibowitz said that the FTC plans to issue a report on privacy later this year, addressing issues such as how to improve privacy policies and increase transparency for consumers, possibly by the “use of standardized terms or formats.”
Leibowitz also told legislators that the Commission is considering the creation of a registry similar to the Do Not Call list that would give consumers the ability to opt out of all behavioral targeting.
While consumers would still receive online advertisements, they would not be targeted based on their browsing history. Leibowitz described the “Do-Not-Track” program as a “universally easy-to-use mechanism for consumers [that] could be run through the FTC or could be run through some sort of private entity.” He did not provide any other details on how the program would be implemented.
In other privacy news, Senator Kerry said he plans to introduce an online privacy bill early next year and hopes to see legislation enacted.
In a statement, Kerry indicated that his bill would create standards for collecting consumer information and its use for marketing. He also said consumers should have greater control over how their Internet activity and profiles are accessed by advertisers and Web sites.
To read the text of Chairman Leibowitz’s Senate testimony, click here.
Why it matters: Privacy remains in the news with the push for some form of government regulation increasing. With two pieces of legislation from the House for legislators to debate (only one bill has actually been introduced), the addition of a Senate bill would signal strong congressional support for some form of data privacy law. Combined with its roundtables on the subject and its heightened scrutiny of the privacy practices of companies such as Twitter, the potential for a Do-Not-Track registry signals the continuing focus of the FTC on privacy issues.