Congress weighs changes in web advertising privacy

The issue of who actually owns the personal and private data relating to the websites that internet users visit, the search queries they generate and details of which sites and services they buy from, have long been up for discussion, but Congress could now be about to rule on the issue.

Rep.Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat who heads the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the internet, is drafting a bill that would impose broad new rules on websites and advertisers.

Boucher's aim is to ensure that consumers know exactly what private information is being collected about them on the internet and how it is being used - and, perhaps more importantly, to give them better control over that information.

Congress has embroiled itself in internet privacy issues before, Infosecurity notes, but this privacy bill covers new territory, as it appears to be the first time that regulators have tried to nail down exactly who owns the rights to personal generated data on the internet.

The privacy issue is a complex one, as Boucher notes that much of the data provided to users on the internet is offered free, in return for the collated information.

Boucher argues that his privacy bill will benefit consumers and preserve the underlying economics of the internet, which relies on advertising to generate free content.

"Our goal is not to hinder online advertising. This will make people more likely to trust electronic commerce and the internet", he told the Associated Press.

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