US lawmaker unveils Internet, finance privacy bills

A man surfing the web at an internet cafe. Cheered on by civil liberties advocates and consumer groups, a US lawmaker introduced legislation Friday to help safeguard Internet users' privacy and rein in dissemination of personal financial data. (AFP)

Cheered on by civil liberties advocates and consumer groups, a US lawmaker introduced legislation Friday to help safeguard Internet users' privacy and rein in dissemination of personal financial data.

"These two bills send a clear message - privacy over profit," Democratic Representative Jackie Speier said as she unveiled the Do Not Track Me Online Act and the Financial Information Privacy Act of 2011.

"Consumers have a right to determine what if any of their information is shared with big corporations and the federal government must have the authority and tools to enforce reasonable protections," she said.

The first bill would direct the US Federal Trade Commission to develop a mechanism for consumers to be able to opt out of having their online activity tracked, stored, or shared and require companies to abide by that decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the legislation, with legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese saying: "Signing on to the Internet shouldn't mean signing away your privacy."

"It's crucial that Americans have as much control over their online privacy as possible and this bill is a welcome and important first step toward that goal," Calabrese said in a statement.

The second bill aimed to give consumers more control over whether and how financial institutions share or sell personal, non-public information.

It would enable people to opt out of such sharing between a parent company and an affiliate, and require that consumers explicitly opt-in to allow a firm to share such information with an unaffiliated third party.
 

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