USACM Comments on Internet Privacy Bill Discussion Draft

By David Bruggeman
June 10, 2010

Representatives Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) and Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), who are the chair and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and Internet, introduced a discussion draft of an internet privacy bill in early May. This was done to solicit comments from the public and interested stakeholders prior to officially introducing the bill. You can read the discussion draft online.

The bill focuses on collection of information online and how companies would have to conspicuously display their privacy policy to consumers providing information. If the information is considered sensitive, consumers would have to opt-in – state they agree – in order for the company to collect the information. Otherwise the bill allows for consumers to opt out of the collection – state that they do not want their information collection.

USACM submitted comments on the bill in a letter sent to the subcommittee. The Council expressed its appreciation for developing the draft, which could go a long way toward ensuring Fair Information Practices are used in a more uniform fashion by any entities that collect personal information. USACM did provide some constructive comments on the bill, which include:

  • The legislation could be more technology neutral – With the means of connecting to the Internet changing on a relatively quick basis, a focus on collection via websites unnecessarily narrows the focus of the bill.
  • Notice language – The bill takes the right step in making information collectors provide notice in a more explicit manner. However, the bill is silent about how the notices should be crafted. The bill could make sure that standards are established to make notices more readable, understandable and usable.
  • Reliance on Anonymization – While de-identification can provide some privacy protection for collected data, the bill as written treats it as eliminating, rather than mitigating, risk. De-identification (what the bill calls anonymization) should not remove all obligations to protect data.

You can read all of USACM’s comments in the letter. At the moment, there is no set date for introducing the bill or holding a hearing on it.