NEWS3 September 2009

Privacy groups put proposals to Congress

Government North America Privacy

US— As Congress considers new privacy legislation, consumer and privacy groups have put forward their proposals for limiting online data collection.

A coalition of groups including the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog and the Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted its views to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The groups said that:

  • protection should go beyond what is traditionally termed ‘personally identifiable’ information and cover any information about an individual
  • sensitive information about things like health, finances and ethnicity should not be collected all
  • no data should be collected from under-18s
  • individuals should be given access to any information that has been gathered about them on request
  • the FTC should launch a Do Not Track list, allowing people to opt out of all online behavioural tracking

The groups also propose various solutions for handling data, including behavioural tracking being allowed on opt-out terms for the first 24 hours, after which the subject’s explicit opt-in should be required. They also suggest that all data should be deleted after three months.

Congressman Rick Boucher, who chairs the committee, has indicated that he intends to introduce new privacy legislation later this year.

Bodies representing advertisers have come up with self-regulatory principles of their own, but the privacy groups claimed that this will never be enough. A spokesman for Consumer Watchdog said: “We’ve seen in industry after industry what happens when the fox is left to guard the chicken coop – consumers lose.”

Advertisers and companies specialising in behavioural tracking have said the privacy fears are unfounded and that restricting the practice would harm the online economy.