Group urges Congress to pass privacy laws

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Ten prominent consumer and privacy advocacy organizations have called on Congress to curb online behavioral tracking and targeting.

The groups, acting as an alliance, want Congress to enact legislation to protect consumer privacy.

In a document titled “Online Behavioral Tracking and Targeting, Legislative Primer,” released Tuesday, the alliance said: “Tracking people's every move online is an invasion of privacy…Often consumers are not asked for their consent and have no meaningful control over the collection and use of their information, often by third parties with which they have no relationships.”
 
The group, consisting of organizations such as the Center for Digital Democracy, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said legislation should be enacted to protect against advertisers that collect sensitive information to use for behavioral tracking or targeting. It also urged that individuals should be protected, even if the information collected about them cannot be linked to names, addresses or other personally identifiable information.

In addition, behavioral data should not be retained for more than three months, and ads based on behavioral data should contain links to consumer-friendly explanations and controls, the document recommended.

It also said that individuals should have the right to confirm whether a data controller has their behavioral data, and that they should be able to request such data and ask for it to be deleted.

Congress has conducted hearings on the issue during the summer, and Rep. Rick Boucher, D.-Va., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, has indicated that the subcommittee will consider consumer privacy legislation this fall.

So far, the online industry has argued that self-regulation provides adequate consumer protection, but that is not enough in some cases, according to the coalition. But formal regulation is necessary.

“The record is clear: Industry self-regulation doesn't work,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, in a statement. “It is time for Congress to step in and codify the principles into law.”

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