In an effort to give internet users control over whether their information is collected and used, the California Senate is looking at proposed Senate bill SB-761, the first proposed Do Not Track legislation in the United States.
Late Tuesday, the bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but, it has a long way to go before it can become law. Still, it is the first bill of its kind that has made ito ut of committee and on the road to becoming law.
Simply stated, the proposed bill SB-761 would allow California internet users to opt out of data collection systems. In effect, it puts up a “No Trespassing” sign on the device. The legislation would require stiff fines for any company that violates a user’s request not to be tracked.
Opponents of the bill include Google, CTIA, and the Direct Marketing Association. They claim the bill puts an unnecessary burden on internet marketers who use the information to formulate highly targeted ads.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, most internet users have no idea the type or kind of information that is being collected about them or its use or purpose. Bill SB-761 cites a study by the Wall Street Journal where 50 sites were monitored on a test computer and found to have installed more 3,000 tracking cookies, most without warning. The study showed that twelve installed tracking tools that monitored in real time what people were doing online. These tools assess income, location, interests, and even medical conditions. Some of the tools even re-spawned themselves after being deleted.
This is the kind of activity that the proposed California bill aims to stop. Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the concept is good, but that the legislation is more complicated than necessary and may not do what it intends. He believes that, with appropriate amendments, the Do Not Track law will be approved by the Senate and be able to fulfill its intent.