U.S. lawmakers are now seeking to protect Internet users

Congress is drafting new legislation that would alter internet advertising to better protect the consumer, as many users are unaware that internet marketers are tracking them.

"Our goal is not to hinder online advertising," said Rep. Rick Boucher, (D.,-VA) who is the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet leader, speaking with the Associated Press.  "This will make people more likely to trust electronic commerce and the Internet."

Boucher's legislation is still being worked on, but would help inform internet users that the search queries they conduct and the personal information posted on social networking web sites can be tracked by advertising marketers.  Furthermore, it's expected lawmakers will approve some type of law that helps protect online personal information. Internet users can also "opt in" or "opt out" when they are informed their information may be collected.  

Sites collecting medical and financial information, sexual orientation, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information would be required to have "opt in" status.

Companies that collect information or have a third-party contractor collecting data must inform internet users of the data that is being collected.

This increased legal pressure has led to advertisers already being put on notice of upcoming changes, with a draft of self-regulatory principles released to avoid government involvement.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the guidelines in early 2009.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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