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Ad Privacy Coming to Capitol Hill



Every week, there’s some new concern with Internet privacy, either from a specific company’s actions or the ongoing suspicion of companies that collect user data without notice, often to display ads on other sites. While relevant advertising is a good thing (especially for advertisers), many are becoming uncomfortable with the amount of information collected about us on the Internet—including federal lawmakers.

Representatives Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) are working on a bill to help protect Internet users’ privacy. As the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Energy Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Boucher and Stearns are in a good position to introduce legislation on the matter. While the mere idea strikes terror into the hearts of many a marketer, the current draft may not be as restrictive as we imagine. Boucher outlined the current draft for an American Business Media conference.

The Wall Street Journal reports:


Under the current draft, websites collecting information about their visitors would need to disclose to consumers how that information is collected and used, with whom it is shared and the circumstances under which that sharing takes place, Mr. Sableman said. If consumers decide they don’t want their information to be collected or used for those stated purposes, they should be able to opt out directly on the site.

The regulation also lays out a separate set of regulations for outside companies that collect information about consumers on websites and target ads to those consumers on other, unrelated sites.

Consumers would need to grant these third-party companies special permission for their data to be collected. The draft legislation provides some exceptions. The ad company wouldn’t need to solicit permission to collect information about consumers if the targeted ad includes a link that explains which company was involved in making the ad appear, shows consumers what information is collected about them and gives them the chance to opt out.

Boucher and Stearns promised to post the bill on their websites for two months to solicit input, and while we’ve heard that one before, they’ve already made good on their promises:

Boucher’s site Stearns’s site
Press release Press release
Executive summary (doc) Executive summary (doc)
Full draft (PDF) Full draft (PDF)

What do you think? What issues do you want to see addressed in privacy legislation? Is this too much or not enough? Will it impede effective marketing, or will it not be effective at all?