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Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would expand privacy protections both on- and off-line, requiring companies to allow consumers to opt-out of any data collection. IP addresses are included in the list of information covered by the bill.

The legislation was introduced by Rick Boucher of Virginia (D-9), who is chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. It is cosponsored by the ranking minority member of the committee Cliff Sterns of Florida (R-6). (copy here).

The bill would give the U.S. Federal Trade Commission oversight and violations would be treated as unfair and deceptive acts or practices.

It also would require the FTC to educate the public: “The Commission shall conduct a consumer education campaign to educate the public regarding opt-out and opt-in consent rights afforded by this Act.”

Story here: “Consumer Groups Say Proposed Privacy Bill Is Flawed”

In stories like this the key phrase is “has been introduced.” One can be sure that there will be changes after input from privacy groups and business interests.

Initially it appears that most of the provisions of the bill are simply good business practice, however, if it becomes law all enterprises probably will need to burn some cycles checking existing procedures.

From the initial description it doesn’t appear as though it will change our definition of adware, according to Eric Howes, Sunbelt Software Spyware Research Manager.:

“The defining characteristic of adware is the display of unsolicited advertising on the user’s desktop by a locally installed application. Many adware programs do engage in tracking of users’ online behavior, but that doesn’t change the defining behavior of advertising.

“Moreover, the FTC has already issued rules requiring that adware vendors perform the kind of disclosure that this bill effectively extends to all manner of online data collection. Even when adware vendors satisfy those requirements we still detect the programs because of the advertising, which users find to be an intrusion on their use of their own PCs.”

Our definition of adware is here: “Sunbelt CounterSpy ThreatTypes & Categories”

We’ll be watching it.

Tom Kelchner

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