Congress scrambling to draft ‘do not track’ laws

May 7, 2011

Cecelia Kang, Washington Post

Lawmakers said Friday they will introduce two “do not track” privacy bills that would allow people to block companies from following their activity on the Internet.

The proposals reflect Congress’ growing focus on passing first-time privacy laws for all Internet users and updating children’s privacy laws as more young people get on the Web through mobile devices.

Web firms generally oppose “do not track” rules, first recommended by the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that companies can create tools to help users manage tracking. Some firms, such as Microsoft and Mozilla, have come up with browser-based privacy controls without government mandates.

In the House, Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, issued a draft of a children’s privacy bill, called the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011,” which seeks to protect the youngest users from tailored marketing and from the risk of exposing personal information without parents’ consent.

The bill specifies that the privacy rules would apply to mobile phone apps, an area unregulated by the federal government. It would require companies to get parental consent to collect location information from children 12 and younger. Teens would have to expressly agree to location collection.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he would introduce a bill covering all Internet users, making it illegal for websites and marketers to track anyone who had opted out of data collection. The measure would also require companies to destroy user information or make it anonymous once it is no longer useful. The FTC would be in charge of enforcement.

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