Legislation to create an "online privacy bill of rights" will likely be introduced in the Senate next week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), the bill would reportedly cover information collected from people both online and offline and across industries. Companies would have to get an individual's permission to share his or her data and would have to provide details about what information is being collected about them.
It's not all that surprising that such a bill should soon be coming to the Senate floor. Calls have been mounting to implement better privacy controls online. Privacy advocates such as the ACLU of Northern California point out that laws currently on the books are way behind advances in technology.
Advocates hope this bill will solve that problem now and in the future. "This bill is technology neutral," said Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy. "It applies to technologies of today and yesterday, and should apply to technologies tomorrow."
Several months ago, the Federal Trade Commission issued proposals for how businesses should conduct data gathering online, including collecting only necessary data, securely disposing of it, and better training employees in privacy protection. It also endorsed a "Do Not Track" mechanism that consumers can run, which keeps companies from collecting data on their online habits. It's not clear to what extent the bill will address the FTC's suggestions, if at all, because details on the legislation aren't available.
Browser companies have also taken up the cause, with Mozilla planning to add a Do Not Track tool to its Firefox browser.
Also notable is the bill's bipartisan support, since it's being sponsored by a Republican and Democrat. "Privacy should be a bipartisan issue," said Brookman.