US ad lobby groups are trying to rally opposition to a new internet privacy bill that would enable consumers to sue for $5,000 (€5,636; £3,452) companies that use their personal information without permission.

Introduced last Thursday by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina), the bill concerns information such as financial or health details, political leanings and social security numbers.

Companies that collect such sensitive data – including ad agencies – must under current law gain permission from the consumer to hand the information to third parties, but not if the recipient is its own subsidiary. The new bill would force firms to gain consent before any details are shared, or leave themselves open to legal action.

Adonis Hoffman, senior vp and counsel of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, warned that the proposed legislation “could be devastating to small and mid-size agencies.” The 4As argues that the bill is unnecessary, as privacy is already regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Association of National Advertisers also expressed concern. Executive vp Dan Jaffe cautioned that a blanket online privacy scheme may do more damage than expected. “It is important to operate with a laser, not a broadsword,” he commented.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff