Individuals and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent upon the Internet for social, entertainment, research and business activities. This has created the incentive and opportunity for companies to collect, use, and disseminate data regarding online users. There is concern, however, that tracking individuals’ Internet activity and gathering information from online users violates their expectations of privacy. Individuals often are unaware what information is being collected about them, how it is being used and to whom it is disseminated.
In this hearing, the Committee will consider the current state of the online advertising industry and that market’s impact on users’ privacy. Witnesses are expected to focus on the key factors driving online behavioral advertising, the methods of online behavioral advertising employed by industry, and the protections the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should adopt to protect consumers from unwanted or unnecessary invasions of their privacy.
Daniel K. InouyeSenator
In the United States of America, privacy is a treasured right, but it is also a right that seems to come under regular attack.
Today, commercial entities using digital means can track nearly all of our marketplace moves. Websites and Internet service providers can watch where we go online, what we purchase over the web, and where we linger on the Internet.
Too many consumers spend time on the Internet without knowledge or notice that they are under commercial surveillance. They assume they are in the privacy of their own home and that this privacy will be respected. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.I am troubled by the current state of affairs. I fear that our existing patchwork of sector-specific privacy laws provides American consumers with virtually no protection. At the same time consumers in other countries are treated with more respect and concern by the very same companies who so freely collect our most private information without warning.
American consumers deserve better. With so much of our commerce and entertainment migrating to the Internet, consumers should not be asked to surrender their privacy each time they go online.
Ensuring that every consumer’s right to privacy is appropriately protected will require the Congress’s continued attention. Today’s hearing on privacy and online advertising represents merely a start, and I look forward to holding additional hearings on these matters later this year.
Ted StevensSenatorAs we recently learned in last month’s hearing on spyware, Congress must be increasingly vigilant in ensuring that Americans personally identifiable information is protected. On one hand, legitimate online advertising provides many benefits to our economy – for example it helps newspapers, radio stations and television stations to provide free online news. But, on the other hand, there should be assurances protecting individuals’ privacy and preventing against identity theft.For the Internet economy to continue to grow, Americans need to have confidence that their personal identifiable information is safe when they go online. Moreover, consumers should be fully informed about what information is being collected online, who is collecting the data, and what options consumers have to protect themselves. It falls on industry to take these issues seriously and to balance the benefits of free Internet content with consumer privacy.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Lydia ParnesDirector, Bureau of Consumer ProtectionFederal Trade Commission
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Mike HintzeAssociate General Counsel, Legal & Corporate AffairsMicrosoft Corporation
Mr. Robert R. DykesChairman and Chief Executive OfficerNebuAd Incorporated
Ms. Leslie HarrisPresident and Chief Executive OfficerCenter for Democracy and Technology
Ms. Jane HorvathSenior Privacy CounselGoogle Incorporated
Mr. Clyde Wayne Crews Jr.Vice President for Policy, Director of Technology StudiesCompetitive Enterprise Institute
Mr. Chris KellyChief Privacy OfficerFacebook Incorporated