Two US lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled draft legislation [text, PDF; executive summary, DOC] aimed at protecting Internet privacy. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) [official websites] proposed the bill as a means to regulate how websites track information about visitors and then use that information to target advertising. The bill would require websites to inform visitors how their information will be collected and used and to allow consumers to opt out. Boucher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet [official website], said the proposed legislation [press release], "confers privacy rights on individuals, informing them of the personal information that is collected and shared about them and giving them greater control over the collection, use and sharing of that information." Boucher and Stearns will solicit feedback on the draft bill for two months before submitting it to committee.
The introduction of the draft legislation comes amid mounting controversy surrounding Internet privacy issues. In February, an Internet privacy advocacy group filed a complaint [text, PDF] with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] alleging that the new Google [corporate website] social networking service Buzz violates privacy laws [JURIST report]. In late January, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner launched a new investigation [JURIST report] into Facebook's default privacy settings. The Canadian Commissioner had previously worked with Facebook [JURIST report] in July and August of 2009 to increase users' control over privacy settings. In August, five users filed suit against Facebook [JURIST report] in US Federal Court in California, alleging that the site violates California privacy laws.