U.S. privacy bill on Internet companies coming

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:18am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday said he is working to develop a bill to impose mandatory guidelines on Internet companies to protect user privacy, because the current voluntary approach is falling short.

Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat from Virginia that heads the telecommunications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, described his intent as putting "mandatory guidelines applicable to all Websites."

Privacy advocates say regulations on big Internet and phone companies are too lax, giving the firms excessive control over consumers' personal information.

"I do believe that there should be a minimum set of statutory requirements that should apply to all behavioral advertising," the congressman said in an interview with Reuters.

He said he is working very closely with Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Joe Barton, ranking Republicans on the subcommittee and full committee, respectively.

"We will be doing this together," he said.

Earlier today, Google Inc introduced a new plan to target consumers using so-called behavioral advertising, in which a content company, Internet service provider, or intermediary firm tracks an individual's online use over time to target ads.

Boucher said he did not have all the details he needed on the plan. But he said he will judge it based on how prominent the notice of Google's policy is displayed, how concisely it is stated and how understandable it is to consumers.

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