Will the second time be the charm for Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.), who reintroduced his Do Not Track Online Act privacy legislation?
In 2011 Sen. Rockefeller introduced the bill, which stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee. Now, almost two years later, he is trying again.
The bill would establish a mechanism by which consumers could opt out from having “personal information” collected about their online activities. Companies could collect consumer information that was necessary for a Web site or online service to function, but the information would have to be destroyed or anonymized when no longer needed.
The bill, cosponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), does not define the scope of “personal information,” and leaves the job to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency is also tasked with enforcement.
“Online companies are collecting massive amounts of information, often without consumers’ knowledge or consent,” Sen. Rockefeller said in a statement about the legislation. “My bill gives consumers the opportunity to simply say ‘no thank you’ to anyone and everyone collecting their online information. Period.”
Although the ad industry has launched a self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising since he first proposed the bill, Sen. Rockefeller said it isn’t enough. “Industry made a public pledge to develop Do Not Track standards that will truly protect consumer privacy – and it has failed to live up to that commitment. They have dragged their feet long enough,” Sen. Rockefeller told The New York Times.
To read the Do Not Track Online Act of 2013, click here.
Why it matters: The second attempt will also be Sen. Rockefeller’s final attempt at passing Do Not Track legislation, as he has announced he will not seek reelection in 2014. The chances of passage for the bill are unclear. Privacy remains a hot topic in Washington, D.C.. The legislation faces less competition this go-around as it did in 2011 when Sen. Rockefeller’s bill had to compete with another Senate privacy bill cosponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). However, the ad industry has established a self-regulatory system in the intervening years that may work against Sen. Rockefeller’s success. In response to the lawmaker’s comments about the industry’s efforts – or lack thereof – Lou Mastria, executive director of the Digital Advertising Alliance, which manages the self-regulatory program, disagreed. “We serve the ad choices icon a trillion times a month,” he told AdWeek. “It’s pretty hard to say it’s not working.”