Rockefeller Reintroduces Legislation To Set Mandatory Do-Not-Track Rules

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Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Feb. 28 reintroduced a do-not-track bill (S. 418) aimed at allowing consumers to opt out of having their activities followed by online services and mobile application providers.  

The measure, dubbed the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013, would require online companies to honor a consumer's opt-out choice. The Federal Trade Commission would be given authority to promulgate rules to implement the law and pursue enforcement actions.

“Online companies are collecting massive amounts of information, often without consumers' knowledge or consent,” Rockefeller said in a Feb. 28 statement, noting that industry has promised to honor do-not-track requests without government regulation but alleging that it has so far failed to do so.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Despite pressure from Rockefeller and the FTC, industry has not yet reached agreement on voluntary do-not-track rules. The World Wide Web Consortium, an international organization that develops internet standards, continues to facilitate negotiations among a variety of stakeholders (11 PVLR 1511, 10/15/12).

Behavioral Advertising Revenue

A key objective of the online services and mobile application industry will be to ensure that any do-not-track standard does not “destroy” its ability to monetize users, Gary A. Kibel, a partner with Davis & Gilbert LLP in New York City, told BNA March 1.

Kibel said there had been “industry chatter that there needs to be more of an economic impact analysis on do not track.” He added that an economic impact analysis would need to be balanced “with the legitimate privacy concerns of consumers.”

Whether any ultimate do-not-track standard comes from industry self-guidance or through enactment of Rockefeller's proposed bill also is of great importance to the industry, Kibel explained. He noted that when Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer 10 would come with a do-not-track feature turned on as a default setting, the online advertising industry responded that it would ignore the setting (11 PVLR 1511, 10/15/12). “Obviously with a law, they can't ignore it,” Kibel said.

John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, said in a Feb. 28 statement that it was “now clear that Rockefeller's action is necessary to ensure consumers get the protection they deserve and expect.”

“Self-regulatory efforts to develop a Do-Not-Track standard have stalled. Rockefeller's bill may spark action … but at the end of the day, we'll need legislation to get this done. Industry has had no real incentive to agree to a meaningful standard,” Simpson added.

Rockefeller is scheduled to retire in 2014 but has vowed to make do-not-track legislation a priority for passage before he retires (12 PVLR 133, 1/28/13).


Full text of S. 418, as introduced, is available at http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=sbay-95d25a.