In a recent editorial published in US News and World Report, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has continued her call for increased restrictions on how online companies are allowed to track the movement of consumers on the Internet. In recent years privacy on the Internet has become a hot-button issue with technology to track a user’s movements online becoming more widespread.
Rep. Speier’s bill, The Do Not Track Me Online Act, would give the Federal Trade Commission the right to create regulations that would force online marketers to give consumers the choice to be tracked online. Companies would also be required to disclose how they collect and share their data and with whom they share that information with some exemptions. Rep. Speier argued in the editorial that her bill would give consumers the choice to opt out of tracking and ensure their privacy online.
From US News and World Report:
“I believe that privacy isn’t negotiable. That is why last year I introduced the Do Not Track Me Online Act—to give consumers the ability to prevent the collection and use of data on their online activities. The act would ensure that your privacy is protected and allow you to know who is watching you, what they are doing with your data, and provide the ability to opt out of tracking.”
While protecting online privacy is a laudable goal, government regulation is completely unnecessary here because most companies already have moved to integrate privacy measures. The most recent versions of all three major browsers include do-not-track features.
John Stephenson, director of the communications and technology task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council argues that existing laws and currently technology are already making significant progress in protecting privacy.
“Some argue for new, invasive laws and government mandates to protect our privacy. But why not use the consumer protection laws and sophisticated technologies currently at our disposal to exercise our freedom to protect our privacy?” said Stephenson.
Over-regulating behavioral advertising could have a negative effect on the Internet economy, which has been an engine for economic growth. Behavioral advertising is responsible for keeping free of charge most of the Internet services consumers take for granted. If we regulate advertisers and limit the techniques they can use, consumers can expect to see fees for currently free services like Web-based email, social networking, and news. Businesses have benefitted greatly from the ability to target customers. Critics of do-not-track laws warn that, without tracking, some small businesses may be unable to effectively use the Internet for advertising.
A Heartland Institute Research & Commentary on Internet privacy and do not track legislation is available online at: http://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-Internet-privacy-and-do-not-track-legislation.