Yes, you’re being watched (nearly always)
Every time you venture online, chances are something you do is being tracked. Even if you’ve set your browser settings to “do not track,” there’s still a chance what you’re doing online is being shared with other people.
If you use Amazon or Google, then sign on to Facebook, you’ll likely see an item you just looked at or searched for in the advertising panel on the right-hand side. This is just one example of how companies keep track of the pages you browse to provide targeted advertising.
The proposed Do Not Track Online Act of 2015
According to the Consumerist, Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Senator Ed Markey (MA) are introducing the Do Not Track Online Act of 2015 [pdf].
This bill would direct the Federal Trade Commission to create new regulations “regarding the collection and list use of personal information obtained by tracking the online activity of an individual.”
One year to establish standards
Should the bill pass, the FTC would have a year to establish standards for implementing an easy-to-use Do Not Track mechanism for consumers who do not want their personal information to be collected while browsing the web. The FTC would also create a rule prohibiting providers from collecting personal information who use the Do Not Track mechanism.
The Do Not Track law wouldn’t eliminate the collection of all data; instead, data could only be collected (if using the mechanism) to provide a service requested by the user and the information is anonymized or deleted as soon as the service is provided.
However, collection may also continue if the user consents to the collection, provided the disclosures regarding collection are clear.
“Consumers need this protection”
As you might’ve already surmised, tracking is deeply integrated into many sites, so the FTC will need to consider several different methods and options for implementing the Do Not Track mechanism. While implementation may be difficult, “consumers need this protection against invasive tracking – companies that collect private, sensitive information with every online click,” said Blumenthal in a statement to the Consumerist.
“People deserve to be empowered to stop trackers who collect and store their personal, private information.” Senator Markey adds, “Every online click consumers make provides a detailed and private picture of their personal lives, and American should have control over the collection and use of this personal, sensitive information.”
Taking after recent legislation in Europe
This new bill could being coming as a result of the recent legislation in Europe regarding tougher protection rules. The new policies would take effect in 2017 and would protect the entire 28-member European Union.
According to The New York Times, the new legislation would allow national watchdogs to issue fines if companies misuse people’s online data, including obtaining information without people’s consent. Their laws would also require anyone under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent before using popular social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Could this be next for the US as well? I’m not sure, but I think the Do Not Track bill is a step in the right direction for protecting our information.