Do-Not-Track Bill Returns6 Mar, 2013 By: Doug McPherson
WASHINGTON – A bill that would prevent online companies from collecting “personal information” from consumers who activate a do-not-track mechanism is back in play.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the Do Not Track Online Act of 2013 that directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop regulations to implement a do-not-track tool, to define “personal information” and to evaluate whether data can be “reasonably linked or identified with a person or device.”
The bill would give the FTC and state attorneys general power to enforce the measure, which calls for penalties of up to $15 million.
Rockefeller has said online companies are collecting “massive amounts of information, often without consumers’ knowledge or consent” and that consumers should be empowered to make their own decisions about whether their information can be tracked and used online.
In 2011, Rockefeller introduced the same bill unsuccessfully. He said he’s pushing the measure again because he believes the ad industry hasn’t kept its pledge to honor do-not-track requests.
But Stu Ingis, counsel to the self-regulatory group Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), says the industry already honors opt-out requests when consumers click on opt-out links, such as the one available through AboutAds.info. “We actually delivered a program – that is followed by the entire industry – that does exactly what his bill asks for,” Ingis says.
The DAA said last year it intended to require members to honor browser-based, do-not-track signals, provided that consumers activated them. Since then, however, privacy advocates, industry representatives and computer engineers have been unable to agree on how to interpret those browser-based requests.
Browser-based signals are seen as more permanent than the cookie-based opt-out links available on sites like AboutAds.info. That’s because some privacy-conscious consumers erase their cookies, which results in the deletion of their opt-out preferences.