• How Proposed "Do Not Track" Legislation Could Impact Your Business
  • March 18, 2011 | Author: Kathryn L. Ossian
  • Law Firm: Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. - Detroit Office
  • Congresswoman Jackie Speier recently introduced House Bill 654, the "Do Not Track Me Online" Act.  The proposed law would affect any business that collects or stores personal information about an individual.  In addition to the more traditional definition of "personal information," such as name, address and financial account information, the law would also include information about web sites accessed by the individual, the date and time of access and even the computers, servers and applications used by the individual.  If passed, the act would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promulgate regulations to "establish standards for the required use of an online opt-out mechanism to allow a consumer to effectively and easily prohibit the collection or use of" information covered by the act.

    Even before the introduction of this proposed legislation, the FTC sought comments to a preliminary staff report on consumer privacy.  Several internet companies responded by arguing  that legislation like HR 654 is unnecessary and would be inconsistent with the mechanics of how business is conducted online.  Keeping track of a server used by an individual, for example, could be complicated by the facts that an individual could use different servers to access a site and that a single server is often used by several individuals.  Instead, the industry is promoting the self-regulating concept of "privacy by design" whereby individuals are given tailored choices in how their personal information is shared.

    It remains to be seen whether HR 654, or some similar bill, will be passed into law.  In the meantime, those who collect or store individual information online would be well served to adopt a "privacy by design" standard in their information sharing practices.