Senators propose Web privacy legislation

Responding to a ground swell of public concern about privacy on the Internet,

a bipartisan group of U.S. senators Wednesday proposed a bill that would

require Web sites to post clear and concise information about their privacy

practices.

Under the provisions of the bill, World Wide Web sites would have to divulge

how they plan to use consumers' personal data collected from Internet surfers.

The bill would require companies to describe exactly who is collecting the

information, how the information will be used, the types of information

collected and whether personal information is required to use the site.

The Web sites would also have to take steps to secure the personal information

once it's in their databases.

Senators Spence Abraham (R-Mich.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry

(D-Mass.) held a news conference Wednesday to announce the introduction

of the bill.

Surfing the Web shouldn't require you to share your life story with the

world, Abraham said in a statement. The bill was designed to make sure Internet

users know exactly how a company will use personal information. That way,

consumers can make a clear decision whether to do business via that Web

site, he added.

The bill will also require Web sites to provide consumers with a clear opportunity

to limit the use and disclosure of personal information for marketing purposes.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, according to the statement, would enforce

penalties set in the legislation. Anyone who violates the privacy provisions

would face a civil penalty of $22,000 per violation up to a maximum amount

of $500,000.

The new provisions would allow the FTC to move more swiftly to a civil lawsuit.

Currently, if a Web site violates its own privacy policy, the FTC can issue

an order against the company, but there is no penalty unless the Web site

violates the original FTC order. If that occurs, the FTC can pursue a civil

penalty.

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