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Sen. Rockefeller: Get Ready for a Real Do-Not-Track Bill for Online Advertising

Plan Would Give FTC Power to Prosecute Those Who Don't Let Consumers Opt Out of Tracking

By Published on . 2

It looks like online privacy is getting hit from the left.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-W.Va) plans on introducing a bill next week that will require companies to give consumers the opportunity to opt out of online tracking, and will give the Federal Trade Commission the power to pursue enforcement actions against those that don't.

"Consumers have a right to know when and how their personal and sensitive information is being used online -- and most importantly to be able to say 'no thanks' when companies seek to gather that information without their approval," Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement. "This bill will offer a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their every move on the internet."

The Senator's bill, called the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011, would allow for companies to, at the minimum, collect information necessary to function -- though it is unclear how that standard would be defined -- and it would empower the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute offenders. For consumers who ask not to be tracked, the bill would require companies "to destroy or anonymize the information once it is no longer needed," according to Senator Rockefeller's office.

While the proposed bill hasn't been released, according to insiders, it takes as its template some of the new do-not-track features now being incorporated into web browsers from Mozilla and Microsoft.

A more-comprehensive privacy bill was introduced by Sens. John McCain and John Kerry and aims to protect consumers' data online. That bill, which is expected to gain wide bipartisan support, does not specify a do-not-track requirement, though it leaves open the possibility for mechanisms that may function in that way. The Kerry-McCain bill, known as the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act, is seen as a legislative move to centralize various privacy efforts already under way from industry trade groups, government regulators and the Obama administration.

The introduction of Senator Rockefeller's bill is a typical legislative maneuver designed to politick some new measures into the Kerry-McCain bill, which already looks to "ensure that businesses collecting personal information will secure that information and will allow those people to say whether or not they want that information used."

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