Privacy groups gave an overwhelming thumbs down Tuesday to proposed legislation by Rep. Frederick Carlyle “Rick” Boucher (D-Virginia) that for the first time would mandate the length of time online consumer information could be kept.
The proposal would require websites to discard data collected from their users after 18 months. Some suggested the retention limit for consumer data should be shorter, perhaps just days, to allow a company enough time to mine it before deleting it.
Boucher said in a statement the bill’s goal “is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure.”
The legislation, which Boucher released Tuesday as a “discussion” draft, also largely keeps intact the status quo of the so-called “opt-in” or “opt-out” paradigms. The measure is likely to remain in draft for months, privacy groups said.
“It still largely depends on the opting in and out regime where notice and consent is kind of at the center of privacy practices,” Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a telephone interview. “At least from CDT’s perspective, notice and consent has not been working.”
On the plus side, websites “will need consumer consent to share their data for marketing purposes,” she said. “You’re going to have to tell consumers what you’re collecting information for, if you’re using this information beyond the transaction.”
Still, some conservative groups thought the measure went too far.
“By mandating a hodgepodge of restrictive regulatory defaults, policymakers could unintentionally devastate the ‘free’ internet as we know it. Because the digital economy is fueled by advertising and data collection, a privacy industrial policy for the internet would diminish consumer choice in ad-supported content and services, raise prices, quash digital innovation, and hurt online speech platforms enjoyed by Internet users worldwide,” the Progress and Freedom Foundation said in a statement.
Privacy groups, on the other hand, pointed out that the bill was littered with loopholes.
“Consumers still have to rely on digital fine print to find out how to protect their privacy,” Jeff Chester, director for the Center for Digital Democracy, said in a telephone conference. Pam Dixon, a World Privacy Forum attorney, added that there are “no requirements” on what that fine print should look like.
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Communications, Free Speech, Information, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Privacy Tagged: | Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Civil Liberties, civil rights, Evan Hendricks, Leslie Harris, Privacy Times, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Rick Boucher, surveillance, Virginia, World Privacy Forum