Senators Formally Introduce Online Privacy Bill

Lora Bentley

We've heard about the online privacy bill Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have been working on for several weeks now, but no one could speak definitively about what the bill did or did not cover because it was still in draft form. Tuesday, however, the bill was formally introduced.


In a press conference announcing the bill, McCain said:

Consumers want to shop, browse and share information in an environment that is respectful of their personal information. Our legislation sets forth a framework for companies to create such an environment and allows businesses to continue to market and advertise to all consumers ...

According to The Washington Post, the bill would require online companies to obtain consent before collecting personal information from consumers. Personal information includes name, email address, financial data, religion and health information, among other things.


Once consent is obtained, the companies must explain clearly and in detail what they do with the information that is collected. The bill would also make it harder for companies to create profiles on consumers or to target them for specific advertising based on that personal information.


Perhaps most significantly, the bill gives enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorneys general, who could impose, and allows fines up to $3 million for violations.


Though the industry is pleased with the bill for the most part, the Center for Democracy and Technology has faulted the bill's sponsors for failing to include a do-not-track mechanism like that recommended by the FTC and contemplated by a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).


If both bills pass, however, they could be combined in the joint bill that is eventually presented to the president for his signature.

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