AOL Miscue Could Reinvigorate Privacy Legislation

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-08-10 Email Print this article Print

With privacy advocates preparing FTC claims against AOL in response to its publishing of customers' Internet search data, at least one Washington lawmaker is using the opportunity to push forward existing privacy legislation.

AOL's internal mistake that led it to release detailed keyword search data for roughly 658,000 of its users is being highlighted by at least one Washington legislator as a chance to inject new interest into a consumer privacy bill before Congress.

Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey, the senior Democrat on the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is using the AOL incident to renew his call for Congress to pass legislation that aims to limit the amount of personal data that can be retained by companies' Web sites.

Markey is the author of the Eliminate Warehousing of Consumer Internet Data Act of 2006, which hopes to bolster consumers' Internet privacy by preventing online businesses from storing personal information for indefinite periods of time.

The congressman, who also wrote the Social Security Number Protection Act pending before the House, contends that the AOL miscue serves as further proof of the inherent dangers of companies allowed to retain large amounts of sensitive information about their customers.

"In this digital information age, the personal data we hand over to dozens of Web sites are the keys which unlock the personal lives and valuable possessions of millions of Americans," Markey said in a statement.

"Internet companies are often able to glean personal information through a computer user's surfing and searching of Internet sites; this stored-up data about consumers' Internet use should not be needlessly kept in perpetuity, inviting data thieves or fraudsters, or disclosure through judicial fishing expeditions."

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