#1. Congressional Do-Not-Track Privacy Bill

 

What’s so iAWFUL?  Do-Not-Track is an unjustified restriction on targeted advertising, which helps pay for free online services and content.

 

The Do Not Track Me On-line ActHR 654 Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) wants the FTC to create new regulations that would dramatically reduce the use of tracking data that drives Internet advertising.  The Do Not Track Me legislation (HR 654) would require the Federal Trade Commission to develop rules and enforce a global opt-out preference by users.

 

So what is so iAWFUL?

 

In the Internet’s current form, companies track and analyze consumers’ use of the Internet in order to provide ads that are targeted to user interests. Targeted ads provide websites with more revenue than non-targeted ads because the targeting significantly improves the effectiveness of advertising.  This revenue allows websites to provide consumers free services and content and funds further innovations. Under HR 654, the FTC would create and enforce new rules to:

 

“prohibit the collection or use of covered information by a covered entity for which a consumer has opted-out of such collection or use, unless the consumer changes their opt-out preference to allow the collection or use of such information.”

 

The effect of a global opt-out will dramatically reduce the population of users for whom targeted ads can be delivered.   If ads aren’t targeted, advertisers will pay less and sites may be forced to show a greater quantity of lower-paying ads.  And if that doesn’t make up the lost revenue, sites will likely spend less on new features and services.   Do Not Track will harm consumers and businesses alike. But neither Rep. Speier nor the FTC has shown a need for Do Not Track.  Two of the FTC’s own commissioners doubt whether such a measure is useful and suggested that the same goals might be accomplished through enforcement as opposed to rule making. Instead of making new regulations, the FTC should use their existing enforcement powers to protect consumers by ensuring companies comply with their own privacy policies.

 

New FTC rules add burdens on law-abiding companies while failing to address those who operate outside the law. To address these individuals, aggressive enforcement seems more relevant than expanded regulation. And if Congress were to create a new national regime for online privacy with HR 654, it should add strong pre-emption of state legislations that would create a patchwork of conflicting laws.

Previous NetChoice Writings on This Issue

 

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