Boucher: Privacy bill will not inhibit advertising, new draft due in June

Boucher introduced his comprehensive privacy bill with the support of subcommittee Ranking Member Cliff Stearns (R-Fl.) last week. Among other things, the legislation would require companies to disclose whenever they collected information from consumers and ported that data into Web ads. Businesses that failed to publish their methods appropriately, however, would face punishment from the Federal Trade Commission, which the bill would grant statutory authority to enforce behavior-based advertising rules.

Consumers who feel their privacy remains at risk could ultimately opt out of a site’s targeted advertisements. And the default setting for the most sensitive bits of information — including sexual orientation, a user’s location or a computer’s IP address — would universally require users’ permission before collection.

But the bill initially drew sharp criticism from privacy groups, who decried it as week, as well as advertisers, who felt it was too vague. Still, Boucher stressed Thursday the legislation is only a draft, and he assured industry leaders he would not begin the markup process until stakeholders could comment and he and Stearns "had the opportunity to review the good suggestions we've received."

A modified bill could be ready as soon as mid-June, the congressman said.