Two pieces of federal privacy legislation were recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Bobby Rush’s Best Practices Act, which is similar to the bill he introduced last year, and Rep. Jackie Speier’s Do Not Track Me Online Act, which would allow consumers to opt-out from having their personal information tracked by online advertisers.
Rep. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 611, which permits companies to collect and use some consumer information as long as consumers have the option to opt-out. Consumers would also have to give prior consent before their information could be shared with third parties. The bill would additionally require companies to disclose information regarding their collection, use, disclosure, merging, and retention of personal information practices, and notify consumers regarding their options. Companies could qualify for a safe harbor from some of the legislation’s requirements by following a self-regulatory program established by the Federal Trade Commission.
Shortly thereafter, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Ca.) introduced her legislation that is designed to “send a clear message – privacy over profit.” The Do Not Track Me Online Act would empower the FTC to create opt-out regulations, under which consumers could preclude a company from collecting personal information, such as Web activity, geolocation, name, IP address, physical address, e-mail address, driver’s license or Social Security number, and financial account numbers.
The bill also contains disclosure requirements. The legislation would apply to companies engaged in interstate commerce, but exempts sites that collect information from fewer than 10,000 visitors a year. Collection of information for “commonly accepted commercial practices” like fraud prevention are also exempted. The bill would give both the FTC and state attorneys general enforcement authority, with civil penalties up to $11,000 per day.
To read the Best Practices Act, H.R. 611, click here.
To read the Do Not Track Me Online Act, H.R. 654, click here.
Why it matters: Consumer privacy continues to garner attention in Washington, with two pieces of legislation already introduced and more on the way. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has stated that he plans to introduce legislation similar to that which he co-sponsored last session, while Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has also said he plans to introduce a bill. The inclusion of a do-not-track mechanism, recommended by the FTC in its privacy report, has become a hot topic for future legislation. While Rep. Rush’s bill does not include a do-not-track mechanism, he said in a statement that he does not oppose the concept.