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US government wants a privacy bill of rights

Do not track might become law
Wed Mar 16 2011, 11:50

THE WHITE HOUSE is going to ask the US Congress to sign off on a "privacy bill of rights" to protect US citizens from data harvesting.

Sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal said that the US assistant secretary of commerce, Lawrence Strickling, is going to bring up the Obama administration's legislative initiative at the Senate Commerce Committee.

The US administration is expected to push for a privacy bill of rights as it wants to give the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more powers. Back in December, The INQUIRER reported that the FTC called for a "Do Not Track" mechanism to be installed in consumers' web browsers.

The system will be designed to stop advertising and marketing firms from tracking online behaviour to spam personalised adverts to Internet users. Microsoft and Mozilla have already signed up to have "Do Not Track" features installed in their web browsers but we are still a long way from allaying privacy fears yet.

The FTC wants companies to get permission from individuals before they can legally harvest data. It also wants to empower Internet users so we have access to any information collected about us.

Now that the administration's traditional hands off approach to digital rights has shifted to protect consumers, advertisers have made feeble stabs to join in. Thirty major US advertisers have created a group to promote a single "Do Not Track" tool.

The privacy bill of rights comes as Europeans are set to introduce a similar "Do Not Track" e-privacy law in May. But as yet, no EU government has actually outlined how it might propose to regulate cookie and website tracking. Privacy campaigners are afraid that EU governments aren't ready for the May date and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) shouted that the e-privacy law would be "detrimental to consumers, business and the UK digital economy".

By which, of course, it means its members. µ


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