April 13th, 2011

Landmark online privacy legislation is introduced in Senate

Los Angeles Times

Internet privacy is shaping up as the consumer issue of the year in Congress, as evidenced by new legislation introduced with bipartisan support from two former presidential candidates.

The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights introduced Tuesday by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) includes measures to address consumer concerns that their sensitive information could be misused.

It stops short, however, of a “do not track” provision sought by privacy advocates that would block companies from tracking Americans’ online activity.

Backers said the bill would enact the first comprehensive protections for consumers’ digital data transmitted from computers, smartphones or other devices, and place new limitations on how companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. handle the information.

“Right now there is no law protecting the information that we share,” Kerry told reporters. “Companies can harvest our personal information online and keep it for as long as they like it.”

“They can sell it without asking permission or even letting you know that they’re selling your own information,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to be a computer genius in order to be able to opt out of information sharing.”

The legislation follows a recent call from the Obama administration for Congress to take action on the issue and comes after a Federal Trade Commission settlement with Google last month that imposes tough new privacy restrictions on the Internet giant.

“This is not a fringe issue,” said Peter Swire, an Ohio State University law professor and former privacy official in the Clinton administration. “There’s bipartisan support from national leaders to do something here.”

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-privacy-bill-20110413,0,1069201.story

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