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US Congress debates online data protection

October 9, 2009

The US House of Representatives will finally get to debate whether online advertising which tracks the browsing habits of users is a violation of privacy and needs to be controlled. A bill introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia will be propsing an opt-out regime that gives users information about the uses to which their data will be put, and allows them to refuse to be enroled. At present many such services work entirely unannounced, placing cookies on users’ hard drives and using other tracking and datamining techniques, and without any way in which a user can say ‘no’. Of course, we have yet to see the results of the inveitable industry scare-stories and hard-lobbying on the what will be proposed, let alone pased. But the proposal itself is particularly significant because so far the US has so far always bowed to business interests on online privacy and data protection, and if this bill is pased, it is a sign that what EFF-founder, Howard Rhiengold, long ago called the ‘electronic frontier’ might start to acquire a little more law and order in favour of ordinary people.

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