In the wake of Charter Communications’ recent withdrawal from a controversial online advertising partnership with NebuAd, the Senate Commerce Committee conducted a hearing Wednesday on online privacy issues associated with the collection of data used to target ads to Internet subscribers. NebuAd chairman Robert Dykes testified at the hearing alongside representatives from Google, Microsoft, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Among the topics discussed at the hearing was the need for legislation that would protect the privacy of web users’ online activities. While Google called for the passage of “a comprehensive privacy law that would establish a uniform framework for privacy and procedures to punish bad actors,” Lydia Parnes, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said legislation was not necessary as her agency is developing guidelines that would assist ISPs in self-policing behavioral advertising and related online privacy practices. According to Parnes, the FTC’s proposal envisions the establishment of industry groups that would define standards for disclosure of advertising practices, consumer consent, and the protection and security of personal data. Agreeing that a light regulatory approach was needed to prevent harm to small businesses that advertise on the web, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) asserted that, “disclosure and transparency is the best way to make sure we end up with a vehicle that not only benefits consumers but is great for the economy.” Dykes told lawmakers that NebuAd allows web users to opt out of its data tracking system and that it only shares certain limited details about subscribers’ web use with advertisers. CDT director Leslie Harris argued, however, that NebuAd’s business model violates federal wiretap law barring telecom providers from sharing subscriber information with third parties without consent, regardless of whether that information is personally identifiable.