The Obama administration is weighing whether to include in the final draft of its privacy report a call for companies not to track children online, a top Commerce Department official said on Tuesday.
Commerce Department General Counsel Cam Kerry said he and other administration officials met last week at the White House with privacy advocates, who urged the administration to consider including in its final report a call for a do-not-track system aimed at children. The report is scheduled to be released in this summer.
Kerry said that the administration is considering the request as well as a call for a more general do-not-track system, which aims to give consumers control over whether they want their online activities monitored so that ads can be targeted at them.
“It’s on the table, sure,” Kerry told National Journal in an interview after the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference. The administration is aiming to release the final report on privacy this summer, he said.
Last month, Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, introduced a kid’s do-not-track bill, which would require online companies to obtain parental consent before collecting children’s personal information. It would limit the collection of personal information, including geolocation data, from teens.
In March, the administration urged Congress to pass legislation providing baseline privacy protections and incentives for industry officials to engage in talks on developing sector-specific codes of conduct aimed at further enhancing privacy.
“Our policy will flesh out what these principles will be,” Kerry said in a speech at the conference. He added that a do-not-track mechanism could be covered by the multi-stakeholder talks among industry sectors on codes of conduct.
In April, Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., who is Cam Kerry’s brother, introduced legislation with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would implement many of the administration’s proposals.
And Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced legislation last month that would require companies to respect consumers’ choices on whether they want to be tracked. It’s unclear whether the two will be meshed into one bill, but the committee is reportedly debating it, according to sources following the issue.
The Federal Trade Commission called for a do-not-track system in a separate staff privacy report in December, but it did not say whether it should be mandated through legislation. Some browser companies such as Mozilla and Microsoft have responded on their own by including do-not-track options in their Internet browsers.
This article appears in the June 14, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.