Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee—D-WV) issued a statement after Facebook announced its plans to give users more control over which targeted advertisements they receive, including the ability to opt out of them. Rockefeller has long been advocating for greater transparency in the online industry, and ramped up these calls after a recent Commerce Committee investigation of the data broker industry revealed that consumers often have no idea what information is being collected about them or how that information is being used – nor do consumers have any ability to stop such practices. Said Sen. Rockefeller:
“Allowing consumers to review and edit their individual advertising profiles is a positive step toward providing users with more transparency and choice. Other companies should follow suit and lift the curtain. At the same time, we need to closely review Facebook’s announced plan to expand advertising use of consumers’ online browsing activities. While the company has long collected this information, using it for advertising purposes may raise new privacy issues. I would have preferred that Facebook allowed consumers to opt out altogether from this type of collection.”
Last month, Rockefeller commended Facebook after the company announced it was updating its default privacy settings. As part of Rockefeller’s longstanding efforts to protect consumer online privacy, Rockefeller introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013, in February 2013, which would allow consumers to control their personal information and prevent online companies from collecting and using that information for profit. Rockefeller originally introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act in 2011 to provide Americans with the ability to opt out of having their online activities tracked by Internet companies.
In February, he also introduced the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), that would require data brokers to be transparent about the information they collect and sell on consumers. The DATA Act would prohibit data brokers from collecting or soliciting consumer information in deceptive ways, and it would allow consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum possible accuracy. Under the DATA Act, consumers would also be able to opt out of having their information collected and sold by data brokers for marketing purposes.
The legislation follows a December 2013 hearing Rockefeller held in the Commerce Committee which highlighted the practices of the data broker industry.
During the hearing, Rockefeller released a majority staff report titled, “A Review of the Data Broker Industry: Collection, Use, and Sale of Consumer Data for Marketing Purposes”, which revealed the scope of the personal data that is routinely collected by data brokers on consumers without their knowledge or consent. The report summarizes the Committee’s investigation into the data broker industry, launched in October 2012, to give consumers a better understanding of how their personal information may be collected, shared, and used.