A coalition of 10 consumer and privacy advocacy organizations, including Privacy Lives, called on Congress to enact legislation to protect consumer privacy in response to threats from the growing practices of online behavioral tracking and targeting.
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“Developments in the digital age urgently require the application of Fair Information Practices to new business practices,” the groups said. “Today, electronic information from consumers is collected, compiled, and sold; all done without reasonable safeguards.”
The groups noted that for the past four decades the foundation of U.S. privacy policies has been based on Fair Information Practices: collection limitation, data quality, purpose specification, use limitation, security safeguards, openness, individual participation, and accountability. They called on Congress to apply those principles in legislation to protect consumer information and privacy.
Behavioral advertising, where a user’s online activity is tracked so that ads can be served based on the user’s behavior, was cited as a particular concern: “Tracking people’s every move online is an invasion of privacy. Online behavioral tracking is even more distressing when consumers aren’t aware who is tracking them, that it’s happening, or how the information will be used. 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.”
“Technological advances have made it far too easy to surreptitiously track individuals online,” said Melissa Ngo of Privacy Lives. “Congress needs to step in and enact legislation that will protect consumer privacy rights no matter what technology is used to collect their data.”
The coalition outlined its concerns and recommended principles for consumer information privacy legislation in letters sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, its Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection and Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.
Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has indicated that the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will consider consumer privacy legislation this fall. Hearings were held this summer.
The groups in the coalition are:
Center for Digital Democracy
Consumer Federation of America
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
The World Privacy Forum