Legislators have introduced two new bills that impact the advertising industry. Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) introduced the Do Not Track Online Act of 2011, and a similar bill, the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011, is awaiting consideration in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Rockefeller’s bill would create a federal registry of consumers who choose not to have information about their online activities collected.
Companies would be allowed to collect information about registered consumers only if “necessary” to provide a service requested by the consumer, or if a consumer is given “clear notice” about the site’s tracking and gives affirmative consent. All information must be destroyed or anonymized when it is no longer needed.
The Federal Trade Commission would have enforcement powers and would be tasked with creating the Do Not Track mechanism. Civil penalties range from up to $16,000 per day to a maximum total liability of $15 million.
“Consumers have a right to know when and how their personal and sensitive information is being used online – and most importantly to be able to say ‘no thanks’ when companies seek to gather that information without their approval,” Sen. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a press release about his proposed bill.
Just days later Congressmen Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) introduced the Do Not Track Kids Act, which would expand the protections of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and prevent online behavioral advertising to persons under age 18. The Act would prohibit Web sites from knowingly collecting data from minors for purposes of “targeted marketing.”
The legislation would also broaden the definition of “personal information” to include IP addresses, unique identifiers, and anything else that might permit the identification of a specific computer and would bring mobile applications under the auspices of COPPA.
Companies would also be prohibited from collecting geolocation data for minors.
Under the proposed legislation, sites would be allowed to continue to collect some information from users under age 18 only if they adhere to the Fair Information Practices Principles, which restrict companies in their collection and use of information.
Further, to the extent technologically feasible, sites would be required to implement an “eraser button” that would allow users to “erase or otherwise eliminate” publicly available content, and to take steps to ensure users are aware that this feature is available.
To read the Do Not Track Online Act of 2011, click here.
To read the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011, click here.
Why it matters: Lawmakers have no shortage of privacy-related bills to consider this term. In addition to Sen. Rockefeller’s bill, Congress is already considering both the Best Practices Act and the Do Not Track Me Online bill in the House of Representatives and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) privacy bill in the Senate. While a number of consumer groups praised both pieces of legislation, representatives of the Direct Marketing Association expressed initial concern about Sen. Rockefeller’s bill, noting that a new law could lead the public to believe that current self-regulatory efforts have not been effective to date.