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Sens. Kerry and McCain introduced online privacy bill

Grant Gross | April 12, 2011
Two high-profile U.S. senators have introduced legislation designed to give consumers more control over what information about them is collected online, but privacy advocates said the bill will do little to curb wide-spread data-collection practices now in place.

"The bill will not protect consumer privacy, who confront the ever-expanding consumer surveillance system," said Jeffrey Chester, CDD's executive director. "It is full of loopholes and definitional problems ... that basically sanction the existing data-collection marketplace."

The privacy advocates praised McCain and Kerry for raising the online privacy issue, but said the bill falls short of their expectations. The loopholes in the bill "could leave consumers feeling that they're far more protected than they are," said John Simpson, consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog.

The bill may limit the FTC from charging online businesses with unfair or deceptive practices in privacy cases, Simpson added. If the bill was law, the FTC may not have been able to enter into a March settlement with Google over privacy complaints about its social-media Buzz product, he said.

Several tech trade groups and companies voiced support for the legislation, however.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech-focused think tank, praised the bill for balancing privacy rights with the "robust commercial Internet ecosystem."

Verizon Communications called the bill a "great start" toward privacy rules, and Hewlett-Packard praised the bill for "providing businesses with the opportunity to enter into a robust self-regulatory program."

 

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