Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) will introduce comprehensive legislation
on online privacy Thursday -- a new version of a bill he introduced in 2000.
Hollings' staff has been hammering out details with representatives of the
high-tech industry, who reportedly are much happier with this version.
The bill focuses "only on personal information collected online after the
date of enactment," meaning that companies can continue to use information they have
gathered prior to that date.
The bill creates two types of information: sensitive and nonsensitive, with
"sensitive" including financial and medical data, ethnic background, religious
affiliation, sexual orientation or political information. "Nonsensitive" would
include online purchases or preferences in consumer goods.
Consumers would be required to "opt-in" to allow the provider to collect
sensitive information, while they would have to opt out if they didn't want the
provider to collect nonsensitive information.
Online providers, such as retailers, would also have to give consumers
"clear and conspicuous" notice of a site's privacy guidelines; they must give
consumers access to the information that has been collected about them; and they
must keep the collected information secure and confidential.
For improper use of nonsensitive information, individuals could complain to
the Federal Trade Commission.
Hollings will hold a hearing on privacy April 25.