Web Privacy Exercises US Lawmakers

16 July 2008

WASHINGTON DC: US lawmakers are continuing their review of online privacy, and will this week debate the emergence of a new web partnership between advertising companies and ISPs to track consumers' personal activities.

The House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee believes internet tracking across different websites should take place only with customers' consent.

Committee chairman, Democrat senator Edward Markey, wants to introduce 'opt-in' rules similar to those that govern cable TV and telephone hook-ups.

Online giants Google and Yahoo have been tracking users' searches on their sites for many years to offer surfers tailored ads relevant to their interests.

However, third-party ad companies are now partnering with phone or cable internet carriers to track users' online activities across the web.

Privacy advocates and some lawmakers say the practice should be strictly regulated because it gives ad companies unprecedented access to every move a person makes online.

Republican senator Joe Barton is one of those calling for new laws, saying: "I understand the need to collate information. I just don't think it should be done without my permission."

Appearing before this week's hearing will be NebuAd ceo Robert Dykes. His firm teams with service providers to track user activity, although he insists the data do not contain personally identifiable information.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff