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    Politico: Online privacy bill remains elusive

    Politico reports on the difficulty Congress has had passing online privacy legislation:

    Congress has been mulling general online privacy laws for longer than Google and Facebook have been dot-coms. But none has passed muster.

    “It’s Washington’s fault,” Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer protection and privacy group, said after reports became public Friday that Google had tracked Apple Web browser users. “Regulators and policymakers have ignored the implications for consumers of the use of all this information collected and used about them.”

    Some lawmakers admitted as much after The Wall Street Journal reported the Google glitch, which Google said was inadvertent and had immediately fixed. […]

    There are several reasons for the absence of a broad online privacy law in the U.S., although the European Union has passed strict protections on how companies can collect and use consumer data, and U.S.-based companies have to comply with these laws in the EU.

    Just as technological advances have made it easier for companies like Google to track people online, they have also allowed firms to prosper by offering an ever-expanding list of cool, convenient ways for people to share data and get information.

    Consumers have willingly flocked to those online services, spending more and more time on more personally revealing social networks, such as Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Americans have also shown a penchant for actively buying products and other goods or services that their networks of friends, family and acquaintances “like” or identify.

    When it comes to data privacy, a lot of people would say they are for it in the abstract. But most of them would also have to admit that they’re willing to trade their privacy in exchange for the ability to look up the nearest Italian restaurant or stay in touch with their high school friends. […]

    In addition, political parties have gotten into the game, using the latest tools from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other online companies to try to help candidates win elections. Some of these tools help target voters, raise campaign funds and spread a candidate’s message.

    Finally, there is concern that federal privacy legislation would harm tech companies and the advertising industry if it’s not carefully crafted.

    Read the full story for information about privacy legislation that continues to languish in Congress.

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