House Seeks Voluntary Approach on Web Privacy

Thursday, 14 Apr 2011 03:44 PM

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A House bill to help consumers learn more about how companies track their online movements takes a more voluntary approach than a comparable Senate bill, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bill introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would require companies to create privacy and disclosure policies to be Online tracking,privacy bill,Congress,Web browsers,Federal Trade Commission,self-regulation,enforcement,House,Cliff Stearns,Senate,John McCain,Apple Safari,Google Chrome,Mozilla Firefox,Microsoft Internet Explorer,What They Know,investigative series,Wall Street Journalapproved by the Federal Trade Commission but would limit the FTC's enforcement power and could override existing state laws.

Stearns said his bill gives consumers more information and promotes self-regulation among marketers. But marketers are viewing the House bill warily, arguing they already do much of what the legislation asks.

“Something is either truly a self-regulatory program, or it’s a regulatory program,” said Linda Woolley, executive vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association.

A similar bill co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is more compulsory and far-reaching. It gives the FTC more power to compel changes in companies' tracking measures and it calls for creation of a privacy “bill of rights” for consumers.

As companies amass data by monitoring consumers online habits, scrutiny of their tracking methods is growing. A Wall Street Journal series entitled “What They Know” explored the use of tracking technology. The Journal also reports that Apple’s Safari Web browser is joining Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox in adding a do-not-track feature. That leaves Google’s Chrome alone among the big four browsers to not include a tracking blocker.



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