Online privacy - We must protect our children

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A 2012 study conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 65 percent of those surveyed believed that it was a bad thing if a search engine collected information about their searches and then used it to rank search results. Also, the study showed that 73 percent stated they would not support a search engine keeping track of searches and using that information to personalize future search results. Moreover, 68 percent indicated that they do not support targeted advertising in any shape, form or fashion.
 
Parts of the industry are listening, while others remain tone-deaf.
 
This summer, Microsoft announced it was implementing the “Do Not Track” signal into its browser by default. This means you have to opt in to being tracked, instead of the other way around. It’s a move that will give every future Internet Explorer user greater control over their privacy. I look at this as a step in the right direction and an acknowledgement by the company that people want control of their personal information.
 
But instead of applauding Microsoft’s move, some in the industry say they will simply ignore it. The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the largest online advertising industry group, announced recently that it is urging members to disregard the “Do Not Track” default and track users anyway.
 
It is a case of the DAA putting profits over privacy, and clearly shows why we need stronger privacy laws in place.
 
As a conservative Republican, I am in full support of a comprehensive privacy bill that allows the consumer to have the final say in how their personal information is used. I believe that this effort can be accomplished without hindering technological innovation. Until there are laws in the books, I am skeptical of any consumer’s privacy preferences truly being honored.
 
I have reached across the aisle and worked with Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey (D) on this vital issue. We are the founders and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus and have done our best to keep a watchful eye over companies’ privacy practices, but we also want to turn our oversight efforts into law. Markey and I introduced H.R. 1895, the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011. This common-sense legislation would at the very least provide additional protections for our children and teens. In my mind, it makes complete sense to ensure that our children are protected from online abusers and the potential misuse of their personal information.

The fight for greater privacy online shouldn’t pit liberals against conservatives because it is all about the protection of our rights. I hope as we move forward people will realize this isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue — it’s an American issue.

Barton is a senior member and former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also serves on the subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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