Draft Internet Privacy Bill Released

By David Bruggeman
May 5, 2010

Representative Rick Boucher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet released a discussion draft of an internet privacy bill. The bill, which was released with the Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Representative Cliff Stearns, addresses consumer information collected online by companies. A copy of the discussion draft is available via Rep. Boucher’s website:

An internet privacy law has been the goal of many in Congress – particularly the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, for several years now. The main policy tension has been between concerns over the privacy of individual information (which can and has been sold to third parties) and the ability of online advertising to function effectively (thus making it easier for websites and online companies to function and contribute to the economy). This discussion draft is the first step in this year’s effort to pass a law. Reps. Boucher and Stearns are seeking feedback on the bill before it is formally introduced and marked up by the subcommittee and then by the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

The major provisions of the discussion draft are:

  • Companies collecting personally identifiable information would have to conspicuously display a clearly-written, understandable privacy policy. Consumers would have to opt-out (request removal) from this collection of information, or a similar collection done by another party and delivered to the first party’s website.
  • Collection of sensitive information (including financial records, health data, or an SSN) would require the consumer to give consent (opt-in), with a limited exception for a third-party ad network if that network provides easy linkage to a web page that allows users to edit their profiles and to opt-out of collection.
  • Sharing information by the company to unrelated third parties for something other than an operational or transactional purpose (selling the information comes to mind), the person whose information was collected must grant permission.
  • FTC would adopt relevant rules to aid in implementing and enforcing the bill, and states can enforce the measure through their AGs or relevant state agencies.

This is a discussion draft, and Congress will be looking for feedback from stakeholders as it moves forward. There is no specific timetable for a hearing or committee consideration of the bill.