PRIVACY COALITION FIGHTS FOR WEB REGULATIONS
Byline: Joanna Ramey
WASHINGTON — A group of nonprofit organizations representing wide-ranging interests challenged state and federal lawmakers Monday to sign a “Privacy Pledge” saying they will work to pass legislation or regulations protecting consumer privacy rights on the Internet.
The 18-member Privacy Coalition called protecting individual information “the major social issue of the information society and the top technology issue in the 107th Congress.” In making its claim, the group cited the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures as cause for mandatory Internet privacy protections.
The coalition’s members include the American Library Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group led by columnist Phyllis Schlafly.
The Privacy Coalition took its stand Monday, as a number of federal lawmakers who are focusing on technology issues met on Capitol Hill with members of the high tech community to discuss Congress’s ongoing role in helping to shepherd the Internet’s growth. The chances of some form of privacy legislation emerging this year were discussed, along with whether Congress should act to help increase the availability of broadband Internet access. The meetings were an acknowledgement of the growing role technology is playing in the U.S. economy.
Several Internet privacy bills have already been introduced in the 107th Congress and the issue has attracted bipartisan support. However, there remain several differences as to how specific any legislation should be in dictating the contents of a Web site’s privacy policies.
One of the hottest issues deals with whether Web sites should allow users to “opt out” of having their personal data collected, or should be required to have consumers “opt in,” before the Web sites can collect data from those users. Generally, e-commerce sites support the adoption of some sort of opt-out system, because it would provide those Web sites with ways to implement more sharply targeted individual marketing programs, based on their users’ personal data.