A California congresswoman on Friday introduced a package of bills that includes an online "do not track" requirement for companies that collect personal information.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, introduced the Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011, which would give the Federal Trade Commission 18 months to come up with standards for companies to follow when it comes to online tracking.
"Consumers have a right to determine what if any of their information is shared with big corporations and the federal government must have the authority and tools to enforce reasonable protections," Speier said in a statement.
Once the FTC standards are in place, the bill would require a covered entity – defined as any company engaged in interstate commerce that collects or stores online data – to disclose its collection and data-sharing practices, including with whom they share that information.
The bill would exempt government agencies, stores with information on fewer than 15,000 customers, or those who collect data on fewer than 10,000 people over a one-year period.
Violations could result in fines of up to $11,000 times the number of days a given company is in violation; the maximum penalty is $5 million.
The FTC weighed in on the "do not track" issue recently, calling on browser makers to provide an easy, opt-out option for online tracking. Since then, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft have all introduced varying "do not track" options for their respective browsers.
Speier also introduced the Financial Information Privacy Act of 2011, which would require financial institutions to get permission before providing affiliates with access to your personally identifiable information.
Speier's bills come several days after a Gallup/USA Today poll found that almost 70 percent of Facebook users and 52 percent of Google users are somewhat or very concerned about privacy while using both services. About 65 percent of Facebook users and 54 percent of Google users are worried about viruses, the poll said.
The bills were heralded by consumer groups, like Consumer Watchdog. "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," said Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog. "Do Not Track is the simple way for consumers to say 'no thanks' to being monitored while they surf the Web."