Consumer privacy data draft bill violates First Amendment, says industry group

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NetChoice, an industry coalition that counts AOL, eBay and Yahoo among its members, has declared that the consumer data privacy draft bill put forward by US Reps Rick Boucher (D-VA)  and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) last month, violates the First Amendment.

In a letter dated June 4, 2010 to Boucher and Stearns, NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco said the draft, which requires companies to notify consumers when collecting information about them, might have “unintended consequences that extend beyond the online world and into traditionally protected speech.” To illustrate his point, DelBianco presented a scenario in which a reporter covering a religious rally “could not even ask someone for their name without first providing a written privacy notice.”

Although there is an operational provision in the draft that takes into account reporters working on stories, according to DelBianco, who worked on defeating a similar Maine privacy legislation a year ago, “data must be collected by a person who does not utilize the Internet.” Because many reporters use the Internet to gather information or post articles, this exception would not apply to them. 

This type of situation, added DelBianco, could have far-reaching ramifications since “it would compromise our first amendment right to free expression.”

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