Google, Microsoft ask for online privacy laws

Thu, 07/10/2008 - 8:05am
Brian Santo

Microsoft and Google advocated for legislation that would provide some privacy protection for consumers during a Senate committee hearing on targeted advertising yesterday.

Representatives of Google and Microsoft suggested that privacy legislation should ensure that consumers be notified what information is being collected about them; that they should have some say in how that information is used; and that such data should be secured.

Their recommendations were reportedly seconded by several Democratic lawmakers.

During the same hearing, a representative of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testified that it would be more effective for the online advertising industry to regulate itself, and that the FTC is drafting a framework of rules that ad companies could consider adopting., according to news reports.

The hands-off approach was also advocated by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., VP for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “Privacy is not a thing to legislate, it's a relationship expressed in countless ways," Crews said, adding that legislation would not be able to keep pace with technological advances.

Also called to testify was a startup called NebuAd, a company that engages in targeted advertising. Consumer groups, including the Center for Democracy & Technology, believe the company’s techniques may be illegal under existing law.

NebuAd CEO Robert Dykes insisted that the information it gathers is completely anonymous and is not kept for long. Critics say the information is, at best, pseudonymous, suggesting it wouldn’t take much to match the information to the specific user.

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