The State of California is looking to set a precedent with a Do Not Track bill, which its creators say could influence federal legislation of a similar nature.
The bill in California would give people the right to opt out of being tracked online. It would give consumers a way to send a message from their browsers that they do not want their information to be tracked for commercial purposes. It passed its first hurdle as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move it forward in the Senate. The bill passed by a vote of 3-2.
Data mining companies have often used browser cookies to collect user's information and sell it to advertisers, who will shape certain ad campaigns based on a particular person or subset of people.
Once again California is leading the way in protecting privacy rights, John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, said in a statement. We hope the California legislation prompts action at the national level.
California senator Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, introduced the bill and is hoping it can influence the national bill. A few weeks back, anti-consumer tracking legislation was proposed nationally by Senators John McCain and John Kerry, but it did not include the Do Not Track concept.
In the past, California has influenced national legislation. For instance, the Do Not Call list was originally implemented in the Golden State under Attorney General Bill Lockyer, two years before the FTC launched a national list.
Simpson's Consumer Watchdog, which criticized McCain and Kerry's legislation for not including Do Not Track, approves of the California version. Consumers should have the right to choose if their private information -- from shoe size, to health concerns, to religious beliefs -- is collected, analyzed and profiled by companies tracking activities online. Do Not Track is the simple way for consumers to say 'no thanks' to being monitored while they surf the web, said Simpson.
The bill would authorize the state's Attorney General write regulations spelling out those responsibilities and to enforce them for California businesses. Websites that require information from an ongoing customer can do so under the proposed bill.
Thus far, the private sector has taken Do Not Call a lot more seriously than the public. Web browser companies, Mozilla, Apple, and Microsoft, have all introduced Do Not Track services, add-ons or extensions to their latest browsers. Only Google's Chrome has not, and even then, it has recommended an independently run add-on that can basically function as a Do Not Track.
A Do Not Track mechanism would give consumers better control of their information and help restore their confidence in the Internet, Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement. That's a win-win for consumers and businesses.
Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna