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Lawmaker introduces online do-not-track bill

Grant Gross | Feb. 11, 2011
A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday would create a do-not-track tool giving Internet users the power to prohibit online advertising networks and social media sites from tracking their Web behavior and sharing their personal information with other businesses.

Private efforts to implement do-not-track tools have been ineffective, Speier added. "Often times, the emperor has no clothes," she said. There must be something enforceable, she said.

Several lawmakers and Web-focused trade groups have criticized efforts to create do-not-track tools, saying the health of the online ad industry depends on its ability to deliver ads targeted at consumers' specific interests.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, representing online advertisers, said in December that there were "significant problems" with the FTC's do-not-track proposal. While a national do-not-track tool "might resonate with the public," it would be difficult to implement with many types of data moving on the Web, the group said. "To create a do-not-track program would require re-engineering the Internet's architecture," the IAB said in December.

Additionally, consumers depend on websites to share data so they can get customized news services, use social-networking tools and receive customized advertising, the IAB said. "Do not track is a misnomer because you cannot turn off data sharing online and, if you could, consumers would encounter a severely diminished experience since they would lose out on the remarkable benefits provided by data sharing," the group said.

Representatives of the IAB and two other Web-focused trade groups weren't immediately available to comment on Speier's legislation.

Speier's bill would allow the FTC to exempt some commonly accepted commercial services, such as the collection of data for billing purposes, from the do-not-track mechanism. The bill would require websites and ad networks to disclose their collection and information sharing practices.

 

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