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California’s “Do Not Track” Bill Clears First Hurdle

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Computer keyboard by ericnvntr on Flickr

Image by ericnvntr on Flickr

California is currently weighing legislation that would require websites to gain user permission before collecting data through cookies in what is believed to be the country’s first “Do Not Track” bill.

SB 761 was introduced by Senator Alan Lowenthal (D – 27th District) and is sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group. It passed the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee 3-2, and will now move on to an appropriations committee before it can reach the full Senate.

Cookies are pieces of information stored on a user’s computer by a web browser and are often used for tracking visits and user preferences. Currently, Internet users can select which cookies to accept or refuse in browser settings or through special applications; the proposed law, though, would require online companies to inform California state residents when their information might be collected and give them the opportunity to opt out.

The measure would cover users’ IP addresses and date and time of visits as well as more personalized information such as names, social security numbers, and email and physical addresses. If companies do not comply, they could face civil lawsuits and penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.

While proponents of the bill laud its potential to protect consumer privacy, among the opponents of the bill are Google and Facebook. In a letter to Lowenthal, those against the proposed legislation aver that it “would create an unnecessary, unenforceable and unconstitutional regulatory burden on Internet commerce.” The letter also points out that in effect, website owners would have to offer this “opt out” provision to all users as there would be no way for them to know for sure whether or not a user is a California resident.

What do you think of California’s “Do Not Track” bill?

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May 19th, 2011 at 11:45 am