Lawmakers circulate draft consumer privacy bill

An early draft of legislation lays out what companies can do with personal information they collect through the Web

 Consumers would get baseline privacy protections for the personal data they give companies over the Internet and offline under an early draft of a bill being circulated by two senior House lawmakers.

Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) the chairman and ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee, released a "discussion draft" of a bill today that’s designed to bolster consumer privacy protections.

The proposal would put a series of restrictions on how companies can collect, use and, dispose of the personal information they collect from people. The proposal would:

  • Require companies that collect personal information from people to clearly post how such data is collected, used and disclosed.
  • Allow companies to collect personal information unless someone opts out and wouldn’t make companies get consent to use operational or transactional data such as session cookies.
  • Require companies to get people’s express consent to knowingly collect personal information that’s considered more sensitive information such as medical records, financial accounts, social security number, and sexual orientation.
  • Make companies get affirmative permission from people to share their personal information with unaffiliated third parties, other than for operational or transactional purposes.
  • Allow for exceptions for information sharing that involves a third-party advertising network that has a clear, easy-to-find link to a Web page that lets people edit their profiles or opt out of having one. The ad network also can’t share that information with anyone else.
  • Have the Federal Trade Commission and states enforce the rules.


Related story:

Commerce opens suggestion box for online privacy


"Our goal is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to Internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure," Boucher said in a statement. "That greater sense of privacy protection will be particularly important in encouraging the trend toward the cloud computing."

Stearns said the draft represented progress towards meaningful privacy protection legislation, but suggested that more work was needed. "While I may not support everything in the current draft bill, it is important to get the input of stakeholders.  I look forward to working with Chairman Boucher to improve upon his hard work," Stearns said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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