NEW YORK: Online firms may be required to ask consumers' permission to send targeted ads based on their web 'history' under the terms of a new piece of state legislation currently being drafted in New York state.

Democrat assemblyman Richard L Brodsky is sponsoring a bill which would also give web users an simple way to opt out from targeted ads.

In addition, it seeks to demand that anonymous search and browsing information should not be linked to personal details such as names and addresses.

Asks Brodsky, who has met with representatives of Microsoft and Yahoo: "Should these companies be able to sell or use what's essentially private data without permission?

"The easy answer is absolutely not."

If the bill is passed, it is thought the complexities of its implementation would effectively require it to be applied nationwide.

Critics of the plan, however, say it could ultimately affect the amount of free content available online, and that lawmakers would not be able to keep up with the pace of change.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff