Companies Angry Over “Do Not Track” Internet Privacy Legislation

Tue, May 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Click here to watch video news segment on this story (Scroll down page).

    SACRAMENTO, CA — The internet is used for a variety of searches, but when you’re looking up Mother’s Day gifts, hats, or even a viral video, that information is being tracked.

    Companies can take that tracked information and target advertisements to someone based on their searches.

    Lindsay Tabaian has noticed tracking, “You see the Facebook crawl come up on the side. Ads that are more relevant to me,”

    It seems harmless, and smart marketing, but most people don’t like the idea of being tracked.

    “It’s kind of scary,” said Sacramento resident Sunny Soltani.

    “Who has that information and how much is it worth to someone?” questioned Erica Edwards.

    President of Consumer Watchdog, Jamie Court, said there’s also concern that the information could fall into the wrong hands or be misused. “You search out of curiosity for ‘marijuana’ you don’t want to be followed by cannabis ads,” said Court. “You should have the right to

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    not be tracked doing that search.”

    Currently, search engines like Microsoft Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari have a “Do Not Track” feature which users can enable. However its enforcement isn’t regulated.

    On Tuesday, Court alongside Senator Alan Lowenthal proposed SB 761, a Do Not Track bill, to the California Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s the first time a hearing has been held about legislation to give people the right to not be tracked on-line.

    The bill would require a user-friendly “do not track” feature to be a choice on any website that does business in California, according to Lowenthal. There would also be penalties if the laws are broken.

    It seems simple, but more than a dozen companies voiced their opposition of the bill. The companies included Google, Inc., the California Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

    The opposition said California leads the world in internet commerce, employs 162,000 people, generates billions in revenue, and is the fastest growing source of jobs in the state.

    Fred Maine from Tech Net, which is also opposed to the bill, said SB 761 would be a job killer and hurt the economy. “Very dramatic impact on those companies that use that advertising based economic model to survive,” he said.

    Court disagreed, “There was on-line advertising before; there’ll be on-line advertising after.”

    During the hearing, Lowenthal acknowledged that amendments will have to be added to the bill since the technology is constantly changing.

    The committee voted 2-1 in favor of the bill, which means “Do Not Track” will move forward.

    There is currently a federal version of the “Do Not Track” bill that is being proposed, but it isn’t expected to be heard, according to Court. He hopes if the bill passes in California it’ll help the federal version to move forward.

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