Lawmakers in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted 53-2 to advance a sweeping bipartisan privacy bill that would outlaw a common form of online behavioral ad targeting.
The version of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act approved Wednesday would prohibit companies from collecting or processing data about web users' online activity across sites and over time for ad purposes. That ban would effectively prevent companies from serving ads to web users based on their browsing activity.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), who was among the bill's authors, stated Wednesday that the measure “puts people back in control of their data.”
Major ad industry organizations including Privacy for America, the Association of National Advertisers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau opposed the bill, argued in a Tuesday letter to lawmakers that the provisions regarding cross-site tracking “would stifle that data-driven economy by prohibiting the collection and use of basic demographic and online activity data for efficient, responsible advertising.”
The Association of National Advertisers on Wednesday reiterated its objections.
“The bill would prohibit companies from collecting and using basic demographic and online activity data for typical and responsible advertising purposes, thus slashing advertising revenue, hurting small businesses, and jeopardizing popular ad-supported digital services, all with little to no consumer benefit,” Chris Oswald, executive vice president for government relations for the organization, stated after the vote.
A prior version of the bill would have allowed ad tech companies to draw on consumers' online activity for advertising, but only with their explicit consent. The ad industry also objected to that earlier version, arguing that companies should be able to serve consumers ads based on cross-site activity on an opt-out basis.
Advocacy group Consumer Reports, which supports the current bill's ban on cross-site data collection, on Tuesday urged lawmakers "to not backtrack on the changes ... especially when it comes to online tracking and targeted advertising."
The bill that advanced to the floor would still allow companies to draw on data collected from their own sites in order to serve targeted ads to adults, on an opt-out basis. The measure prohibits companies from serving targeted ads to children or teens younger than 17.
The bill could be revised again before the full House votes on it. Even if passed in the House, the bill's fate in the Senate remains uncertain, given that Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), head of the Senate Commerce Committee, reportedly has said the measure should be strengthened.