U.S. Senators John Kerry and John McCain announced the introduction of their bi-partisan legislation Tuesday that, if enacted, would limit the use and retention of personal consumer information for commercial uses.

The bill, entitled the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, aims to limit collection, use and dissemination of information for behavioral advertising and marketing strategies.

If the bill is adopted, companies will be required to provide "robust and clear notice to an individual of his or her ability to opt-out of the collection of information for the purpose of transferring it to third parties for behavioral advertising. It would also require collectors to provide individuals either the ability to access and correct their information, or to request cessation of its use and distribution," according to a news release from Senator Kerry’s office.

According to a March 19 letter to the editor of the New York Times, Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, wrote a response to the proposed law Senators McCain and Kerry announced Tuesday.

"The Digital Advertising Alliance, representing more than 5,000 companies in six major trade associations, has enabled a safe, sane and simple self-regulatory system for assuring consumers transparency, notice, choice and control of their data. You are premature in calling for legislation when no need exists," he said in the letter.

Governmental bodies feel the protections are necessary. "Americans have a right to decide how their information is collected, used and distributed and businesses deserve the certainty that comes with clear guidelines," Senator Kerry said in a news release.

Senator McCain, according to a news release, said, "the bill does not allow for the collection and sharing of private data by businesses that have no relationship to the consumer for purposes other than advertising and marketing."

Before the bill’s announcement Rothenberg addressed the questions the law would present in his letter.

"You want enforcement of ‘clear standards,’ when there are no standards in custom, let alone law, to determine whether, for example, cookies used to limit spam in consumers’ browsers should be deemed ‘their information’ and subject to government control," he wrote.

If the bill were passed the Federal Trade Commission would be directed to oversee the practice of collecting personal information and would provide rules for use of consumer-based data collection and distribution. A state’s attorney general would also have enforcement powers.

The Federal Trade Commission would also have the ability, under the new law, to allow a non-governmental organization to "oversee safe harbor programs that would be voluntary for participants to join, but would have to achieve protections as rigorous or more," than those enumerated in the bill.

Rothenberg said in his letter that this law would "go further, into areas that are wholly uncharted. You want legislation to require Web browsers to include a universal do-not-track option, when even the Federal Trade Commission concedes that it has no adequate definition of data tracking, collection or first-party marketing."

Under the law businesses that collect information will be required to provide security measures for the information they collect and maintain; give notice to individuals when they collect information and give the consumer the ability to "opt-out" of any information collection.

Additionally, consumers would now have the ability to give consent or "opt-in" for "the collection of sensitive personally identifiable information."

The bill would place a limit on the collector’s ability to gather data to what is only "necessary to process or enforce a transaction or to deliver a service, but allow for the collection and use of information for research and development to improve the transaction or service and retain it for only a reasonable period of time," a statement from Senator Kerry’s office said.

Rothenberg sees no need for the law; in his eyes the standards for information collection are already high.

"No one opposes strong consumer privacy protections, least of all digital media businesses that depend on consumer trust and safety for their livelihood," Rothenberg wrote. "Indeed, the principles laid out by Senator John Kerry are those that the industry adopted in July 2009, embedded in a self-regulatory mechanism launched by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in January, and voted unanimously into a membership code of conduct by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in February."


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