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Google behavioral ads scare US lawmakers

House mulls privacy law

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US lawmakers have been itching for a good excuse to slap mandatory security guidelines on online behavioral ad targeting schemes, and apparently, they've found it.

Google's new plan introduced Wednesday to track individual users' browser history to target ads was just the ticket for Democrat Rep. Rich Boucher, the newly-minted chairman of the House subcommittee on communications and the internet.

The Virginia congressman said yesterday he's working on a bill that will put restrictions on how internet companies can collect, save, store, and share user information.

Thus far, online ad firms have enjoyed a Bush administration policy of voluntary, self-regulation for protecting user privacy and disclosing what they do with personal data. But with a new boss in the White House, the FCC recently has taken a firmer stance on its "guidance" for the industry and last month warned online firms it's their "last clear chance" to show self-regulation is effective in policing data-collection policies.

Now Boucher says he's working with other ranking members of the communications subcommittee, Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns and Joe Barton, on a bill to take privacy rules out of the hands of online ad agencies.

"I do believe that there should be a minimum set of statutory requirements that should apply to all behavioral advertising," Boucher told Reuters.

Boucher said that although he doesn't have the details of the plan worked out, it will be based on how prominent Google's behavioral ad policy is displayed and how easily understandable it is to users. He also doesn't have a timetable drawn up for the proposed bill — but with Google's behavioral ad targeting rollout, it certainly could push the issue into the spotlight. ®

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