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'Do Not Track' Hearing Tees Up

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The Internet's ability to track a consumer's every click has become a marketer's dream.

That dream could be threatened if Congress passes legislation to establish a system allowing Internet users to opt-out of having their online activity tracked by data-gathering firms.

Citing privacy concerns, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing Thursday (Dec. 2) on the feasibility of establishing a "Do Not Track" registry for the Internet.  

The concept is one of many online privacy concepts kicking around Congress. In July Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), chairman of the Subcommittee, introduced the Best Practices Act, a bill aimed at establishing rules for transparency concerning the collection, use and disclosure of online behavior data.

While there are many ideas about preserving online privacy, there are no specific laws governing the tracking of consumer activity on the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission has the authority to bring case-by-case legal action for unfair or deceptive practices and is expected to release a report soon on the topic. Advertisers, media and marketers this fall launched a self-regulatory program that allows consumers to opt out of Internet ads.

Below, the invited witnesses for Thursday's hearing include: Daniel Weitzner, associate administrator for the Office of Policy Analysis and Development, Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce;
David Vladeck, director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission; Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection, Consumer Federation of America; Joe Pasqua, vp of research, Symantec Corporation; Gail MacKinnon, evp and chief government relations officer, Time Warner Cable; Eben Moglen, Ph.D., legal advisor, Diaspora*, Professor of Law, Columbia University and founding director, Software Freedom Law Center; and Daniel Castro, senior analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.