All browsers should have a do-not-track setting, and all companies that track Web users must honor it. So says Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.
"A ban through Do Not Track must be comprehensive and prohibit all web tracking through any means, whether currently in existence or yet to be developed," Franken said in comments submitted this week to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The NTIA proposed a set of privacy principles in February and called for comment on them. Franken -- as well as dozens of public interest groups, corporations and others -- submitted written responses.
Franken's 20-page comments addressed a wide range of privacy issues, including do-not-track proposals. In addition to saying that ad networks should be required to stop tracking people who activate a do-not-track mechanism, Franken also says that companies like Facebook should stop tracking logged-in users via the “like” button. (Facebook doesn't mine that data to serve ads; the company deletes the data after 90 days, according to USA Today.)
The lawmaker also repeated his claim that Web companies with the largest market shares can't be counted on to protect privacy. "While any dominant company has lower incentives to meet consumer demands, the unique nature of the Internet economy may make these companies especially likely to act in a manner that is contrary to consumers' privacy," he wrote. "Internet companies are not just collecting consumer data by chance. Rather, an Internet company's financial success may turn in large part on its ability to beat its competitors in gathering data -- ideally detailed, individualized data -- about consumers."
Franken also pushed the idea that consumers must be able to sue corporations over their data practices. "Privacy violations are difficult to detect, and when they are detected, the damage that consumers suffer is hard to quantify with a dollar amount. Both of these factors decrease the likelihood of government enforcement," he wrote. "For these reasons, I urge the NTIA to ensure that any implementations of the enforcement principle consider the role of enforcement by private citizens."