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'Do Not Track' Privacy Bill Sitting on Gov. Brown's Desk

'Do Not Track' Privacy Bill Sitting on Gov. Brown's Desk
September 27, 2013
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Businesses are keeping a close watch on California Gov. Jerry Brown's next move with the state's new "Do Not Track" legislation. Lawmakers passed the bill in late August that would require websites to clearly state in their privacy policy how they honor "do not track" requests and when exactly advertisers and data firms are tracking consumers' online behaviors.

The Do Not Track bill amends the existing California Online Privacy Protection Act, which required companies that collect identifiable information on online users to post their privacy policies in an obvious and easily-identifiable place on their sites, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The measure was sponsored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and passed unanimously in  the California Assembly. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill into law, and most expect him to meet that deadline, The Hill reported.

Support and implications of the bill
Along with state lawmakers, privacy advocates support the measure. California Attorney General Kamala Harris helped draft the bill. NetChoice Policy Counsel Carl Szabo told The Hill Harris' efforts should be noted as the bill now focuses on "getting information into the hands of consumers about the tools available to them today." Jim Halpert, a technology lawyer, also said the bill is written so that it can evolve with technology in the future.

Joanne McNabb, director of privacy education and policy in the California Attorney General's office, spoke of the outcome of the bill if it becomes law.

"Information on who does what will move into the public eye," she said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "The goal is to bring the largely invisible practice of online tracking more into the light."

While technically, the law only requires websites to share this information with California residents, changes to a company's website will impact residents nationwide as it's unlikely businesses will craft a California-specific privacy policy, the Chronicle said.

Relevant trade groups of the online standards body the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are unofficially unopposed, though not necessarily in support of the California bill, according to the source. A committee of the W3C has tried for years to create a do not track rule, but have come up empty handed. And while the majority of consumers may not actually read privacy policies, if passed, the California bill would require businesses to make changes to their websites, the Chronicle reported.

Eduard Goodman is chief privacy officer at IDentity Theft 911.

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