Kerry And McCain Introduce Bill To Protect Privacy Online

In an attempt to give Americans more control over how their personal information is collected and used on the Internet, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), introduced a bill to protect consumers’ online privacy on Tuesday.

The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 would create a framework for how companies can collect, store and distribute personal information, and would require companies to employ security measures to protect that information. Companies would also need to tell individuals how and why they are collecting information, make it easier to opt-out, and in some cases, make the default for sharing sensitive data opt-in.“Every single day, each of us produce a staggering amount of personal information on the Internet,” said Kerry, at a press conference announcing the bill. He noted that every online activity “can be tracked, can be stored, and can be shared on an almost unimaginable scale,” and warned that there are currently no laws protecting shared information.

“Companies can harvest our personal information online and keep it for as long as they like, they can sell it without asking permission, or even letting you know,” he said. While he added that many companies had high ethical standards, he described the current state of data collection on the Internet as a virtual wild wild west.

“These companies can do virtually whatever they want with our personal information and we have no legal right, today, to tell them to stop.”

McCain called the bill “sensible” regulation and said the hard part of negotiating the bill was striking the right balance between the needs of businesses and consumers.

“Our bill seeks to respect the ability of businesses to advertise, market and recruit new customers while also respecting consumers’ personal information,” he said.

The legislation would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and State Attorneys General power to enforce its provisions.