McCain Wants Online Privacy

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Washington-Weighing the pros and cons of consumer profiling online, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would pursue legislation that considers the need for stronger privacy protections at a time of unprecedented electronic-commerce growth.

"What we must find is the delicate balance between benefiting consumers and invading their privacy," McCain said during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Internet profiling last week.

McCain, who serves as committee chairman, is working on larger Internet-privacy legislation that he hopes to complete later this year. The hearing on profiling follows others he has called on the privacy issue.

McCain said "cookies" and other tracking devices raise serious privacy concerns when deployed by advertisers that are not required to disclose them to consumers.

"They can track the Web sites we visit, the pages we view in Web sites, the time and duration of visits, terms entered into search engines, purchases, response to advertisements and the page we visited before coming to that site," McCain said.

Federal Trade Commission officials said most online-profiling technologies, including cookies, are not regulated. FTC commissioner Orson Swindle doubted whether the systems designed to survey consumer tastes online may not read consumer demand effectively.

"Surveys are one-time snapshots of consumer opinion, they are easily biased by design and they must be examined for methodological integrity," Swindle said.

The FTC said it would hold off on making any formal recommendations to the committee.

States News Service

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