NEWS13 April 2011

Senate privacy bill of rights promotes opt-out over ‘do not track’

Government North America

US— A new privacy bill of rights introduced yesterday by Senators John Kerry and John McCain would require companies to provide consumers greater notice of what information is collected about them, to allow them to opt-out if desired and to make the collection of certain sensitive information opt-in only.

The bill – full details of which can be found here – also enshrines in law a ‘right to data minimisation’: that companies are only allowed to collect as much information as necessary to process or enforce a transaction or service. It does allow for the collection and use of information for research and development purposes, but this information can only be retained for a limited amount of time.

A ‘do not track’ provision was absent from the bill, which irked privacy groups who penned a letter to Kerry and McCain to state their belief that “any privacy bill should direct the Federal Trade Commission to require and enforce a ‘Do Not Track Me’ mechanism”.

“Consumers should have the right to use the internet and mobile devices with confidence that their privacy choices are respected, and with anonymity if they choose,” argued representatives of the Centre for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Action Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Privacy Times.

Kerry told reporters that a robust opt-out mechanism removes the need for ‘do not track’, but the privacy groups accused the senators of relying to heavily on the prevailing “notice and choice model”.

“This approach has meant the development of incomprehensible privacy policies that appear to be written by lawyers paid by the word to obfuscate rather than elucidate,” the privacy groups said.