Three major tech companies – eBay, Intel, and Microsoft – sent a letter to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.) in support of his proposed privacy bill, the Best Practices Act. The companies said they support the bill, which would require companies to receive permission before collecting consumers’ sensitive information, because it “strikes the appropriate balance.”
Rep. Rush, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, introduced H.R. 5777 in July as the “Building Effective Strategies To Promote Responsibility Accountability Choice Transparency Innovation Consumer Expectations and Safeguards Act” or Best Practices Act of 2010. In the letter, the three companies said they “support the bill’s overall framework” and “appreciate that the [Act] is technology neutral and gives flexibility to the Federal Trade Commission to adapt to changes in technology.” However, they criticized the provision allowing civil suits by consumers, claiming it “would create unnecessary litigation costs and uncertainty for businesses, but would not have a corresponding benefit to consumer privacy.”
In other privacy legislation news, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) recently spoke at a forum sponsored by the Safe Internet Alliance, saying that he plans to introduce his privacy legislation early in the next congressional session. Reps. Boucher and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) released a draft of their proposed legislation in May, which included heightened disclosure requirements for privacy practices and new rules on targeted advertising. The bill would also establish a general rule of opt-out consent for companies that collect data about consumers, although opt-in consent would be required to collect “sensitive data,” such as geographic location information, medical records, or sexual orientation. (For more details on the legislation, click here.)
Movement could also come in the Senate, with Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) announcing that he is working on a bill to address online tracking. Sen. Pryor said the bill could include a “do-not-track” list similar to the federal Do Not Call registry, where consumers could opt out of having their activities tracked online. Sen. Pryor said he plans to introduce the bill – which could be either a broader privacy bill or a standalone measure – in the next congressional session.
To read the letter from eBay, Intel, and Microsoft, click here.
To read the Best Practices Act, click here.
To read the discussion draft of the Boucher-Stearns bill, click here.
Why it matters: Consumer privacy remains a hot topic in Washington and with several lawmakers addressing the issue, legislation could become a reality in the next congressional session.