House Privacy Bill Expected Tuesday

A much-anticipated online privacy bill is expected to be distributed for assessment by industry and privacy stakeholders Tuesday. The online ad industry has braced for comprehensive online privacy legislation for several months. The draft bill is expected to be sponsored by Rep. Rick Boucher, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and may be co-sponsored by Ranking Republican Cliff Stearns, making the legislation bipartisan, a source told ClickZ News.

Boucher indicated the bill would be made available online tomorrow while speaking this morning at the annual American Business Media conference.

Members of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Public Policy Council will convene May 11 in Washington, D.C. where they’ll receive a legislative update from a key House Committee representative. Council members represent companies including Disney and ESPN, ad data and technology firms including Bluekai and Audience Science, and other Web giants such as Amazon and Google.

At the IAB council meeting, Amy Levine, subcommittee counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee which encompasses the Internet subcommittee, is expected to discuss details of the proposed law. Boucher has supported the idea of creating new privacy legislation for over a year. Last April, he told attendees of an Internet subcommittee hearing on privacy, “The thought that a network operator could track a user’s every move on the Internet, record the details of every search and read every e-mail or attached document is alarming.” Boucher’s Washington office did not make anyone available for comment in time for publication.

“The key elements [of the legislation] are going to be that every website will have to disclose every piece of information that they collect from visitors and how that information is used by the website that collects it. And then users should have control over that process,” Boucher wrote in beltway pub The Hill last year.

The subcommittee has held hearings in the past year to gather information about behavioral advertising, and more recently location-based mobile targeting.

The IAB’s Political Action Committee contributed to Boucher’s reelection campaign in 2009, and to other House Internet Subcommittee members including Mike Rogers and John Shimkus.

U.S. senators have also recently indicated a strong interest in protecting consumer data privacy, particularly in relation to Facebook. Last week four senators – Charles Schumer, Michael Bennet, Mark Begich, and Al Franken – blasted Facebook’s new “open graph” program, calling for the firm to adopt an opt-in policy for third party data sharing. In its current form, the program is opt-out – meaning consumers are automatically included in the program. The Facebook system has broad implications for online ad targeting, and could be affected by Boucher’s upcoming bill.

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