Online data collection the subject of Blumenthal's testimony

Keith Loria Dec. 3, 2010, 11:17am


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Thursday that he has asked Congress to stop the tracking of consumers' online activity without their express permission.

He also wants it to restrict the use and storage of data collected by companies. Blumenthal made his points in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, during a hearing on do-not-track proposals.

"Congress should implement the closest possible Internet equivalent of the do-not-call list, enabling consumers to say a simple 'no' to snoopers," Blumenthal said.

"Options may include an opt in, requiring sites to obtain specific permission to track and sell data or buttons on Internet browsers that consumers could push requiring sites not to collect information."

Blumenthal asked Congress to require the Federal Trade Commission to adopt rules governing the conduct of any entity that collects data than can be directly linked to a specific consumer, computer or other device. This would include data collected in online contexts, regardless of whether the entity interacts with the consumer directly.

"Consumers must not sacrifice privacy to surf the net," Blumenthal said. "Legal Internet activity - what we search for, what sites we visit, what we buy and read - is nobody's business. Spying to sell products is still spying, an insidious and intolerable violation of the right to privacy and being left alone."

Blumenthal also wants all entities collecting such personal information, or that collected such information prior to the establishment of an opt-in authorization, to be required to give clear and concise notice of the information collected and how it will be used.

Blumenthal wants Congress to prohibit any entity from collecting such personal information unless the consumer affirmatively authorizes such collection and use for marketing purposes and stop any entity that has previously collected such personal information from using or disseminating the information unless the consumer authorizes the collection and use for marketing purposes.

"Holding Internet data indefinitely is deeply disturbing and disquieting-a 1984-ish nightmare," Blumenthal said.

"Internet trackers should be required to routinely dump data, as well as inform users what information they collect and how it is used and obtain an opt in.

"The Internet is a force for good and progress, but can threaten privacy and liberty. Powerful protections are vital to prevent spying on Internet users."

Furthermore, Blumenthal would like to enact the same civil penalties for the unauthorized collection or use of private consumer information as contained in the Do Not Call law, with a fine of up to $16,000 per violation.

More News