As browser companies roll out their own versions of "Do Not Track," Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced a bill that would make implementing such technology a legal requirement.
Speier says "The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011" would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact and enforce regulations that give consumers the right to block companies from tracking their activities and collecting their data online. Often, data mining companies will sell this information to companies which subsequently use it to target certain customers, usually with advertising.
"People have a right to surf the web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world," Speier said in a statement. "The internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers' protections to keep pace."
Under the proposed legislation, failure to comply with a consumer's wishes to opt out would be received as an unfair or deceptive act punishable by law. The bill allows for exemptions, such as commonly accepted commercial practices like the collection of information for billing purposes.
Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit which looks out for consumer interests, introduced the bill at a press conference along with Speier and other advocates.
"Consumers should have the right to choose if their private information — from shoe size, to health concerns, to religious beliefs — is collected, analyzed and profiled by companies tracking activities online. Do Not Track is the simple way for consumers to say 'no thanks' to being monitored while they surf the web," Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement.
Speier's bill is the first in congress to explicitly call for requiring a Do Not Track mechanism. Back in December, the FTC issued a report recommending such a requirement, saying it was feasible and enforceable.
"We also believe, as do most American businesses, that no company loses by respecting the wishes of its customers. Do Not Track will allow the Internet to continue to thrive while protecting our basic right to privacy when we travel in cyberspace," FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz wrote in a recent note.
This bill announcement will likely not go over too well with third party advertisers. One such advertiser, Marc Niven, founder and chief revenue officer of BrightTag, recently said data collecting isn't necessarily a bad thing as it allows sites to retarget based on behavior exhibited by users.
"Data is absolutely necessary. It has been around a long time, even in the offline world. It's a function of how the economy operates. If we were to stop collecting and using data, the economy would freeze up," Niven said, who added opt out solutions are too black and white.
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