Congress takes stab at 'Do Not Track' legislation

A bill pending in Congress seeks to legislate some form of "do not track" system to protect online privacy.

Momentum is building behind the US Federal Trade Commission call for some sort of "do not track" system. Each of the major Web browser vendors have come up with their own unique approach to preventing Web surfing habits from being tracked, and now Congress is getting in on the act with pending "do not track" legislation.

I spoke with Behnam Dayanim, co-chair of Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider's Litigation and Regulatory Group. Behn has extensive experience in U.S. and global personal-data privacy issues and shared some thoughts about the "Do Not Track' bill, and what we can expect going forward.

Behn explained that this legislation is the first effort in the United States to classify an IP address as personal or sensitive information worthy of protection. Behn added "The bill leaves quite a lot to the Federal Trade Commission to sort out. That is a reasonable approach -- and a refreshing change from how much congressional legislation is drafted -- but it would portend a vigorous and likely difficult rulemaking if enacted, as the FTC attempts to implement its mandate."

If the FTC wants to know how much fun that game is, it need look no further than the FCC. The FCC has a similarly broad mandate to regulate interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. However, virtually every FCC decision or attempt at fulfilling that mandate is met with massive resistance from the GOP and an overwhelming lobbying effort by the industries the FCC is charged with overseeing.

Behn describes one example of the nuanced minefield this legislation might create for the FTC. "It defines "sensitive information" to include information that "relates directly" to an individual's physical or mental health. That definition raises a lot of questions - if I visit WebMD or a site for a psychiatric center near me, does that browsing behavior "relate" to my physical or mental health? In truth, the answer may depend on why I went there - for myself, for a loved one, out of idle curiosity."

The legislation itself takes a broad approach rather than directing specific solutions. Some sort of universal opt-out framework -- similar to the telemarketing "do not call" registry, would be best, but the bill leaves open the possibility that "do not track" could be implemented at the browser level. That system requires a lot of user awareness and interaction, though -- like requiring people to register for different "do not call" plans depending on which phone hardware or phone company they use.

The FTC could take up the challenge and develop a more universal opt-out approach, but like FCC efforts to impose net neutrality, any FTC attempt to regulate on a broad scale is bound to be met with controversy and resistance.

Ultimately, though, Behn is confident the bill will not pass -- at least not in its entirety or in its current form. "Although we may see some internet privacy legislation from this Congress, I would not rate the chances as high, and any bill that does pass will reflect more of a self-regulatory bent than is reflected in Rep. Speier's bill."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacy legislationapplicationssecuritybrowserssoftwarelegislationgovernmentinternetprivacyFederal Trade Commission

More about FCCFederal Trade CommissionFTCNetflixUS Federal Trade CommissionWebMD

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tony Bradley

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place