A senior member of the U.S. Senate plans to introduce legislation that would require websites and online advertising networks to stop tracking Web users who ask to be left alone.
Senator John "Jay" Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said Friday he will introduce an online do-not-track bill soon.
"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, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, in a statement. "This bill will offer a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their every move on the Internet."
The Do-Not-Track Online Act would create an obligation for online companies to honor consumer requests to opt out of tracking. The bill would allow the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to take enforcement action against companies that do not honor the do-not-track requests.
After an Internet user opts out of online tracking, Web-based companies could collect only the information needed for the website or online service to function. Online companies would be required to destroy or anonymize personal information after it's no longer needed under the legislation.
Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced a do-not-track bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in February.
NetChoice, a trade group representing e-commerce groups, opposes the Speier bill, saying it would hurt Web businesses. Online tracking helps deliver targeted advertising that pays for free Web content and services, said NetChoice executive director Steve DelBianco..
DelBianco said he has not seen a draft of the Rockefeller legislation, but he wants to buy Rockefeller "a gift he really needs -- an iPad, so the senator can see for himself how interest tracking lets advertisers pay for all those free apps and Web services that regular Americans love to use."
Separately on Friday, Representatives Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, released a discussion draft of a bill that would require online companies to obtain parental consent before collecting children's and teen's personal information.
The bill would also allow parents and children to demand that children's personal information held by Web-based companies be deleted.
"For millions of kids today, the Internet is their new 21st century playground -- they learn, play, and connect with others every day," Markey said in a statement. "The Internet presents a wide array of opportunities to communicate and access entertainment that were unimaginable only a few years ago. But kids growing up in this online environment also need protection from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.