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Online privacy legislation in the works

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Charleston, S.C.—U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) Monday announced details of draft legislation concerning online privacy during American Business Media's 2010 Annual Conference. Boucher and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) planned to post their draft legislation today.

"Our purpose is not to interfere with legitimate behavioral advertising, but there is a great deal of concern from Internet users on how their information is being used," Boucher said.

In his remarks to the ABM membership, Boucher said a bill designed to protect consumer privacy both online and offline could be introduced in the House of Representatives in about two months.

The draft legislation proposes that Web sites inform consumers what information about them is being collected, how it is being used and whom it might be shared with. Consumers would be given the ability to “opt-out.” The same rules would essentially apply to affiliated third-party networks.

However, for advertising networks that gather information from consumers across multiple unaffiliated Web sites (known as unrelated third-party networks), an “opt-in” requirement would generally apply.

Andrew Goodenough, CEO of Summit Business Media, asked Boucher whether there would be any differentiation between consumers and Internet users seeking b-to-b information. Boucher said there would be no distinction, in part because it would be too difficult to draw the line between consumers and b-to-b users.

B-to-b media executives in attendance said they saw no immediate threat from the draft legislation described by Boucher. Bill Furlong, VP-business development at Bizo, an ad network that allows targeting of online ads to business people, said he welcomed the legislation. “I think this is like CAN-Spam,” he said, referring to the law that set guidelines for e-mail marketing. “This will help the good guys.”

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