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Lawmakers Go After Consumer Behavior-Based Ads

Control Your InfoThe push for proper net neutrality legislation has, at least temporarily, run aground following a decision from a Federal Appeals Court that said the FCC had no authority to regulate service providers. But the fight for consumer rights on the Web doesn't stop with slapping Comcast on the wrist for blocking BitTorrent. A collection of 11 consumer advocacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Consumer Action, is pressing the government to pass laws limiting the type of consumer information companies can track and also to require that said companies allow users to disable the invasive features.

The coalition of groups wants companies to quickly inform consumers when personal information is being collected, what's specifically collected and how they plan to use that data. The groups also want consumers to have the ability to request to see any data a company has collected about them and have the option to correct or remove any information as they see fit. Particularly sensitive data like social security numbers, health and financial records, race, sexual orientation or political activity would be barred from tracking.

A pair of lawmakers in the House have taken up the cause. Virginian Democrat Rick Boucher -- the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet -- has drafted a bill that greatly expands privacy protections and limits the ability of companies to track consumers without their knowledge. Floridian Republican Cliff Stearns is working with Boucher on the bill, and it is expected that the two will formally introduce it for debate in the next few months. Neither the consumer groups nor the companies targeted by the new regulations are happy with the current version of the bill. The coalition of consumer advocates argue the bill doesn't go far enough by favoring an opt-out system over an opt-in one and allowing companies to bury data collection policies in dense fine print. Businesses are standing firm by their insistence that they're capable of self-policing -- an argument that takes a set of cojones visible from space to make in the post-banking-collapse era.

The legislation in its current form takes some great steps towards protecting consumer privacy, but we're worried that -- in the following months -- lobbyists, unsympathetic lawmakers and others could further weaken it. You can read the entire draft law at Boucher's website. [From: The Hill and CNET]

Tags: boucher, CliffStearns, consumer action, ConsumerAction, ConsumerProtection, eff, government, law, politics, privacy, RickBoucher, top, web