Reaction to Privacy Bill Fast and Furious

As reported in ReveNews, a privacy bill was released in draft form on Tuesday with the intention of getting comments on the draft and then introducing formal legislation in about a month.

According to The New York Times:

The proposed bill would expand what information should be considered confidential. It would require companies to post clear and understandable privacy notices when they collected information. Such information could range from health or financial data to any unique identifier, including a customer identification number, a user’s race or sexual orientation, the user’s precise location or any preference profile the user has filled out. It could also include an Internet Protocol address…

Significantly, the bill also requires companies to advise consumers even when they are collecting any of that information off line, which could include data houses and direct marketers.

Reaction to the draft legislation was fast and furious. The Wall Street Journal reports that the legislation was “drawing criticism from both Internet and advertising industries, which are leery of regulation, and consumer privacy advocates, who say the bill does far too little to protect consumers.”

Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation told CNET, “By mandating a hodge-podge of restrictive regulatory defaults, policymakers could unintentionally devastate the ‘free’ Internet as we know it.” But Michelle De Mooy of the group Consumer Action said “We don’t think it effectively protects consumer information online.” Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America added, “It carves out a huge loophole for behavioral advertising. It prevents states from enacting and enforcing stronger privacy legislation.”

Mike Zaneis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau told The New York Times that some of the definitions in the legislation were “overly broad.” He said including an IP address would be a significant “change to existing laws here in the U.S. and would potentially have widespread implications.”

In short, no one seems happy with the content of the bill. Even groups on opposite sides of the issue agree that the potential legislation stinks. Given that the draft legislation was released by both Democrat and Republican Congressmen, the blame can’t be heaped on one party. Instead, it appears that once again, Washington may be trying to legislate business practices without considering the voices of either industry or consumers.

Stay tuned to see if this legislation moves forward in its current form, or if the uproar it has created is heard on Capitol Hill. It would be nice to think legislators would listen for a change and come up with something that makes sense and serves the needs of everyone.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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