Proposed bill curbs online data gathering

March 31, 2011 at 4:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- A bill letting U.S. consumers refuse to have their Internet browsing history shared with marketers may be introduced next week, a U.S. senator said.

"When you go on the Internet, are you as an American consenting to having your private activities shared with other people?" Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked The Boston Globe.

People would never tolerate a private detective secretly recording their every move for the benefit of marketing agencies, so why should they permit it on the Internet? Kerry said.

Kerry did not disclose the bill's details, but The Wall Street Journal three weeks ago called it a comprehensive "online privacy bill of rights" requiring companies to seek people's permission to share data about them with outsiders and giving people the right to see the data collected about them.

The Globe paraphrased Kerry as saying he had won initial support from Web giants Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. and had consulted with Facebook Inc. and consumer and privacy advocates.

Kerry's office said Thursday Kerry misspoke about Google. His office told United Press International it was online auction and shopping Web site eBay Inc., not Google, that had expressed support of the bill to Kerry.

The office told the Globe Thursday chip maker Intel Corp. and information-technology giant Hewlett-Packard Co. were also on board.

Kerry's Google talks are continuing, a source close to the negotiations told UPI. Google said it would not comment on pending legislation.

EBay Associate General Counsel and Global Privacy leader Scott Shipman told UPI eBay supported "comprehensive privacy legislation that strikes the proper balance between consumer and business concerns," protecting privacy rights while fostering e-commerce.

Microsoft said it was "looking forward"' to the Kerry-McCain bill's introduction and would "have a comment at that time." A spokesman said Microsoft supported "comprehensive privacy legislation."

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told UPI he wouldn't comment on the bill, but said Facebook sought to balance user privacy with Internet innovation.

"When crafting legislation, we believe the areas of greatest concern must be where users' data is being shared with companies with whom they do not have an existing business relationship," Noyes said in an e-mail.

Google Wednesday agreed to adopt a "comprehensive privacy program" to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission charges it deceived users and violated its own privacy policy when it launched the Google Buzz social-networking service Feb. 9, 2010.

The settlement "should lead to higher privacy standards and better protection for personal data," said the Electronic Privacy Information Center Washington advocacy group, whose complaint led to the settlement.

Google Buzz's launch "fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control," Google Privacy Director Alma Whitten said in a company blog post.

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