It's Time to Protect Consumers Online

Many Americans were shocked recently when Google announced it would stop scanning its users' email to target advertisements. Did many even know it was happening?

Online privacy is an issue that continues to rightfully concern Americans. According to research by IBM, over ninety percent of the world's data has been generated in the last two years alone. The explosion of smartphones and internet-connected devices has Americans utilizing online services to do everything from grocery shopping to tracking their health. However, increased reliance on online services has made Americans more conscious about how they share sensitive personal information, which is why I introduced the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly (BROWSER) Act last month.

Instead of subjecting the consumers to different rules from multiple regulators, the BROWSER Act establishes one privacy regulator with one set of rules for the entire internet eco-system. Internet service providers (those which provide access to the internet such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast) and "edge" providers (those which provide content and/or services for the internet, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon) would equally be required to obtain consumers' consent to use their sensitive information. This "opt-in" consent would apply to things such as social security numbers, financial information, health information, web browsing history, precise geo-location data and other user information deemed sensitive.

The Federal Trade Commission has been our nation's sole online privacy regulator for years and, under BROWSER, would be tasked with enforcement. In the age of "Big Data," the BROWSER Act's opt-in framework and regulatory fairness will empower Americans with more control over their online presence, or what I call the "Virtual You." In addition, my legislation contains a preemption clause to provide the industry with regulatory certainty it will not be confronted with a patchwork of inconsistent state privacy laws.

Online privacy is not a new issue. Congress has been working on it for years and it's time we give Americans the tools they need to have greater control over their "Virtual You." During the 113th Congress, I co-chaired the bi-partisan Congressional Privacy Working Group. Republicans and Democrats worked intensely, side-by-side, holding roundtable discussions with industry leaders to identify best practices for protecting consumers' privacy. This had been a bipartisan issue.

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It's Time to Protect Consumers Online is dedicated to protecting consumer privacy on the Internet. Our practices are consistent with privacy guidelines established by eTrust.com.

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It's Time to Protect Consumers Online respects the individual privacy rights and concerns of visitors to our website. We support meaningful self-regulation of the Internet to ensure that responsible organizations maintain the right to use all communications media to interact with the public.