Investigative & Security Professionals for Legislative Action

Internet Privacy Update

18 Mar 2011 9:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

“In the past year, The Wall Street Journal's ‘What They Know’ series has revealed that popular websites install thousands of tracking technologies on people's computers without their knowledge, feeding an industry that gathers and sells information on their finances, political leanings and religious interests, among other things.” – March 16, 2011 WSJ

On March 16, 2011, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony from its chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D-WV] and witnesses from the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, Microsoft, GroupM Interaction, an independent researcher, Intuit, and the ACLU.  


Testimony is available on line at the Commerce Committee’s website. The ACLU paper “The State of Online Consumer Privacy” is an excellent reference source for privacy issues material, especially the links identified in its footnotes. Over the years a number of ISPLA members, as well as I, have relied on much of the same material when meeting with legislators, privacy advocates, and business leaders or preparing testimony on issues affecting investigative and security professionals.


The subject of consumer privacy relative to the Internet is one being closely monitored by ISPLA. However, this issue presently does not warrant excessive involvement of lobbying resources at the present time by our members. But the issue does bear watching.  The major players from all perspectives have far greater resources than our profession. What we must make certain is that the recommendations evolving from hearings such as this, as well as other pending legislation in the House and Senate do not expand beyond Internet tracking. ISPLA has previously reported on separate legislation offered by Rep. Bobby Rush [D-IL-1], Rep. Cliff Stearns [R-FL-6], Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] and Sen. John Kerry [D-MA], as well as proposed “Do Not Track” regulations by the FTC. Most of the Senate Commerce Committee excerpts below were prepared by the Democrat members of the committee.     

Key Quotations from the Hearing:

“Now, I appreciate that we live in a world in which online technology is rapidly evolving. I know some online companies have taken steps to address consumer privacy. And, I appreciate the need to proceed carefully when providing consumer protections that may disrupt the functionality of the Internet. But Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. There is an online privacy war going on, and without help, consumers will lose. We must act to give Americans the basic online privacy protections they deserve.” - Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

“In light of the concerns expressed about online tracking, the [Preliminary FTC] Staff Report recommended a Do Not Track mechanism. A robust, effective Do Not Track system would ensure that consumers can opt out once, rather than having to exercise choices on a company-by-company or transaction-by-transaction basis. Such a universal mechanism could be accomplished through legislation or potentially through robust, enforceable self-regulation.” -  Jon D. Leibowitz, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission

“Having carefully reviewed all stakeholder comments to the Green Paper, the Department has concluded that the U.S. consumer data privacy framework will benefit from legislation to establish a clearer set of rules for the road for businesses and consumers, while preserving the innovation and free flow of information that are hallmarks of the Internet.” - Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce 

“In the digital era, privacy is no longer about being ‘let alone.’ Privacy is about knowing what data is being collected and what is happening to it, having choices about how it is collected and used, and being confident that it is secure.” - Erich D. Andersen, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation 

“We want to build consumer trust in the online experience, and therefore we believe that consumers should be able to choose whether and how their data is collected or used for online behavioral advertising. Our clients also want to provide these choices to maintain the confidence of their customers. Global companies work hard every day to protect their brands, and they recognize that their customers may have different preferences about online advertising.”  - John Montgomery, Chief Operating Officer, GroupM Interaction

“Consumers need more transparency into who is tracking them online, what data is being collected, and how this data is being used, shared or sold. Today’s technical defenses to online tracking are not able to stop the leading tracking technologies, and consumers often do not have meaningful ways to control them. To be effective, privacy protections for consumers online will likely require both a technical and policy component, working in tandem, and I believe these discussions here today are a great step in making that union a reality.”  - Ashkan Soltani, Researcher and Consultant 

“As we enter this important discussion, it is necessary to further emphasize the importance of both respect for the consumer participation and control of information and the value and benefit of continued innovation, in particular where the future of economic growth is goingundefineddata driven innovation. The key to our success and to ensuring balance among these interests is earning the customers trust.” - Barbara Lawler, Chief Privacy Officer, Intuit, Inc.

“If this collection of data is allowed to continue unchecked, then capitalism will build what the government never couldundefineda complete surveillance state online. Without government intervention, we may soon find the internet has been transformed from a library and playground to a fishbowl, and that we have unwittingly ceded core values of privacy and autonomy.” -  Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties


The Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), written over thirty years ago, in the view of the ACLU has become the basis for comprehensive privacy laws in most of the industrialized world as well as sector specific privacy laws in the United States. In 2008 the Privacy Office of the Department of Homeland Security formally adopted them in its analysis of DHS programs. And in a recent report, the Department of Commerce recommended that the FIPPs as described by DHS be adopted as the basis for internet regulation. The FIPPs stand for eight relatively straightforward ideas:

• Transparency: Individuals should have clear notice about the data collection practices involving them.
• Individual Participation: Individuals should have the right to consent to the use of their information.
• Purpose Specification: Data collectors should describe why they need particular information.
• Data Minimization: Information should only be collected if it‘s needed.
• Use Limitation: Information collected for one purpose shouldn‘t be used for another.
• Data Quality and Integrity: Information should be accurate.
• Security: Information should be kept secure.
Accountability and Auditing: Data collectors should know who has accessed information and how it is used.

While some adjustments will have to be made to conform to new technologies, international internet data collection practices, as well as the data collection practices of other sectors of the

US economy, are already governed by the FIPPs. To imply as some have done that application of these regulations in this case would cause serious harm to the internet and e-commerce seems overstated at best. These protections must be embodied in law, not just in industry practice, according to the ACLU.


The ACLU written testimony indicates that the rapid adoption of new testimony has not eliminated Americans’ expectations of privacy. They reference a 2009 study by Joseph Turow, et al, which indicates that 69% of Internet users want the legal right to know everything that a Web site knows about them and 92% want the right to require websites to delete information about them.


Consumers also oppose Internet tracking according to a 2010 study by Lymari Morale which indicates that 67% reject the idea that advertisers should be able to match ads based on specific websites consumers visit, and 61% believe these practices were not justified even if they kept costs down and allowed consumers to visit websites for free. Thus, Americans, although making great use of the Internet are still very concerned over their privacy and troubled by the practice of behavioral targeting.  They expect their online activities will remain private, hence the ongoing efforts by Congress and regulators to propose solutions to protect consumers’ Internet privacy.


In closing, the recent Wall Street Journal article states:


“The administration's plan to push for legislation reflects a shifting attitude by the government, which for more than a decade favored a hands-off approach to the Internet. Officials have said the increasing intrusiveness of online tracking has forced them to reassess that approach.”


ISPLA’s mission is help contain such government regulatory efforts to just Internet activities and make certain such legislation does not expand to data collected or disseminated by investigators.    


Bruce Hulme

ISPLA Director of Government Affairs

Investigative & Security Professionals for Legislative Action


"Real Investigators, Real Professionals, Real Representation"


Powered by Wild Apricot. Try our all-in-one platform for easy membership management