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Online privacy bill to be released today

May 4, 2010

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) will today release the text of a long-anticipated online privacy bill, The Wall Street Journal reports. For the next two months, the lawmakers will accept comments and will revise the bill before formally introducing it.

As expected, the bill regulates data collection and ad targeting practices and, according to reports, would apply to online and offline ad targeting activities.

Web sites that collect consumers’ information would be required to disclose what is collected, how it is used and with whom it is shared. The sites would also be required to provide consumers with a direct opt-out of the data collection practices.

The bill’s online behavioral advertising regulations require third parties that collect information on Web sites and then use the information to target ads to consumers on other sites to obtain consumers’ permission for the data collection, with some exceptions.

The bill would preempt state legislation in this area.

In previewing the bill at an event on Monday, Boucher noted, “Our purpose is not to interfere with legitimate behavioral advertising, but there is a great deal of concern from Internet users on how their information is being used.” He cited a recent study that suggests slow growth in the behavioral marketing space could be due to regulatory uncertainty and said he hopes the bill will provide the assurances that the market needs in order to grow.

Meanwhile, a coalition of public interest groups sent Congress a letter yesterday urging it to enact sweeping online privacy protection, Tech Daily Dose reports. The coalition wants 24-hour terms set for Web site and ad network use and retention of users’ data unless the sites have obtained users’ opt-in consent.