Internet Privacy Legislation Still in Offing

If you think that legislation to protect consumer privacy (PDF) on the Internet is dead now that its author, Rick Boucher, has been defeated in Congress, think again.

A key member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau's privacy committee noted to me at the Ad:Tech conference in New York yesterday that the desire to protect consumers is bipartisan, a sentiment the Washington post notes: "A key Republican lawmaker indicated Wednesday that Internet privacy could be a legislative priority in the next Congress, as a growing number of data breaches draw increased attention from federal regulators." Technology site Nextgov concurred that Republicans plan to deal with privacy.

The legislative language, I was told, can pretty much be copied by another lawmaker, who will put his/her name on it. It's also hard to ignore the FTC's moves to explore privacy issues such as behavioral targeting (sending ads to consumers based on their previous Web surfing) and other uses of cookies and identified databases. A salesman from Casale media today proudly told me at Ad:Tech that his ad network had just closed deals with Nielsen and MRI Research, and that they could now send ads to their database (of 65 million, I believe), targeting ads down to the household level.

At the IAB's Ad Ops conference earlier this week, the IAB’s Vice President of Public Policy, Mike Zaneis, and Chuck Curran, Executive Director of the Network Advertising Initiative, talked of how they industry was working to regulate itself. (Here are their proposed principles for behavioral advertising.) But as I've written before, and any scholar of Corporate Social Responsibility knows, to get ahead of a curve once the legislative process has begun requires an industry to take bold steps that leapfrog the efforts underway to place limits.

Notice how Google CEO Eric Schmidt is very cautious to specify all the services Google can give you if you share information while also being very careful to specify user permission in this recent Charlie Rose interview (at 1:47, and again at 20:21).

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