Rockefeller to introduce Do Not Track bill in Senate

US Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) will introduce a Do Not Track bill next week that would require companies to abide the choice of consumers who opt out of online behavioral tracking.

The Do Not Track Online Act of 2011 would also permit the Federal Trade Commission to take action against companies who violate consumers’ privacy requests, according to a statement from the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Rockefeller is chairman. Companies would be allowed to collect information from consumers “that is necessary for the website or online service to function and be effective” but would be required to “destroy or anonymize the information once it is no longer needed.”

The statement did not say whether the bill will include an online Do Not Track mechanism that would allow consumers to opt-out of online behavioral advertising, as is called for in the Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011, introduced by US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in February. Rockefeller’s office referred requests for comment to the Senate Commerce Committee’s press office, which did not immediately respond.

“Consumers have a right to know when and how their personal and sensitive information is being used online — and most importantly to be able to say ‘no thanks’ when companies seek to gather that information without their approval,” said Rockefeller, in the statement. “This bill will offer a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their every move on the Internet.”

Rockefeller’s bill would be the second online privacy bill introduced in the Senate this year. In April, US Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, which did not include a Do Not Track provision. Three online privacy bills have been introduced in the House this Congress.

Companies including Google, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo are openly opposing a Do Not Track bill in the California State Senate that would require a Do Not Track mechanism, according to news reports. Next week, Google and Apple will testify during a mobile privacy hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. The two companies were summoned by US Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the committee’s chairman, in the wake of news reports that both track the location of mobile devices running the respective iOS and Android operating systems.

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