Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller has reintroduced legislation that would
require companies who collect personal information online to get the
affirmative permission of the person whose information is being collected.
Violators could be fined up to $15 million.
The so-called Do-Not-Track
bill was first introduced in 2011, but has failed to gain traction,
particularly with Republicans who tend to favor an opt-out, rather than opt-in,
data collection regime.
It would require the Federal Trade Commission to create
rules requiring opt-in consent, as well as "clear and conspicuous
notice" about what data is being collected and how it is being used. The
law would apply to nonprofits as well as for-profit businesses.
The law gives states the authority, parens patriae (acting
on behalf of all the residences) to compel compliance with the law or file suit
against a company it believes is violating that law.
The bill also sets a fine of up to $16,000 per violation per
day of noncompliance up to a maximum of $15 million, with an inflation
Computer companies were not happy with the bill's return.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, whose
board members include Apple, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Quaalcom, called it a
"detrimental policy that undermines the economic foundation of the
Internet and makes consumers worse off."
The FTC will soon be under new management, but under chairman
Jon Leibowitz, who is exiting Friday, the commission has put an emphasis on self-regulation,
though Leibowitz has also said he favors a do-not-track regime and has also
said that legislation might be needed if self-regulation did not produce
sufficient choice and control for consumers.
"The success of the Internet is rooted in
the availability of access to free, ad-supported online content and
services," said ITIF senior analyst Daniel Castro. "Given the
importance of the Internet to the U.S. economy it is unfortunate to see
legislation introduced that will discourage growth in this important sector.
Instead of demonizing legitimate online advertising practices, Congress should
focus on meaningful efforts to protect user privacy that do not undermine the
economic system that has supported decades of innovation on the Internet."