Daily Dashboard

Do-Not-Track Bill Gets State Senate Hearing

May 4, 2011

 

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP

Saying it was a “historic moment,” California Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) gave testimony Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee on his proposed do-not-track bill, SB 761. Conceding that there are “recognizable concerns” with the proposed legislation, Lowenthal also stated that Californians have a “fundamental right to privacy.”

“This is the first bill of its kind to have a public hearing in the nation,” he said.

Introduced in April, the bill would enable Internet users to opt out of being tracked by websites, advertising networks or any business that “collects, uses or stores” a consumer’s online data. It would also require businesses to disclose how that data is gathered, processed and retained. Violators also would be subject to civil action for damages.

Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court, one of three witnesses who were present in support of the legislation, said that people using smartphones “should not have to worry that their personal information is being collected.”

Travis LeBlanc, California’s special assistant attorney general who oversees the office’s work on technology, high tech crime, privacy and healthcare, also provided testimony. He said he joins Lowenthal in launching the conversation and cited California’s “laudable spirit” to protect privacy.

At least 13 witnesses were present to oppose the legislation, including representatives from TechNet, the California Chamber of Commerce, Yahoo, Google, LexisNexis, the Direct Marketing Association and the Motion Picture Association of America.

A TechNet representative expressed concern that the bill was “unworkable and unenforceable” and was “targeted at the part of the California economy that is growing the fastest.” He also argued that major browsers like Mozilla and Microsoft already offer opt-out technology.

A representative from the California Chamber of Commerce noted that the bill would have a “chilling effect on job growth” and that it would negatively impact industry beyond the Internet, including banking, retail and insurance.

Opponents have also noted that there could be constitutional and interstate commerce issues with the bill.

Yet, Court drew a parallel between the arguments heard from those against the do not track mechanism to those who were against the U.S. Do Not Call Registry. “When we established the do-not-call list, telemarketers made the same claim,” but it didn’t hurt the industry, he said.

When asked if industry representatives have provided specific data on the economic impact of the bill, Lowenthal said he had not received any data from the opposition that showed how the legislation would cause businesses to lose money.

Judiciary Committee Chair Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) agreed with Lowenthal that it was a historic moment and that there was a necessary tension between the proposed legislation and industry. 

Noting the complexity of the situation, Lowenthal said he is willing to make a commitment to work with industry and amend the bill as needed.

“We want this to be successful,” Lowenthal said, adding, “we need to work together.”

The Judiciary Committee voted to move the bill.

Privacy Tracker subscribers can hear more about the California Senate committee hearing during Thursday’s audio conference at noon EDT. Watch for an e-mail with the full agenda and dial-in information later today.