The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is preparing to hold hearings on online privacy issues, perhaps as soon as February, according to Hill sources.
The hearings will discuss the Federal Trade Commission's suggestion of creating a "Do Not Track" regime, in addition to broader online privacy issues. They could also coincide with legislation, perhaps bills sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., chairman of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance Subcommittee, who have floated bills in the past.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. and chairman of the committee, who is likely to schedule the hearing before the full committee, has been a strong proponent of legislation to protect consumers' online privacy, giving the issue high priority on his legislative agenda.
Despite the apparent movement in Congress, the online advertising industry is hoping the progress it is making to self-regulate online privacy is getting noticed.
"There is no doubt the program is really advancing," said Mike Zaneis, svp and general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, one of the organizations spearheading the industry's self-regulation program. "We have more than 100 companies, the major ad players, and the major ad agencies. We're getting larger scale each day with billions of ads sporting the privacy icon." (The icon on ads takes consumers to a page where they can “opt-out" of tracking.)
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission has given companies an additional two weeks to submit comments about the FTC's December report. The deadline is now mid-February. The Commerce Department, which also issued a report in December, is also expected to announce a short extension.