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Rep. Joe Barton

Barton, Markey Release Draft of ‘Do Not Track’ Bill for Kids

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WASHINGTON, May 9, 2011 – Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ed Markey (D-MD) released a discussion draft of to-be-introduced legislation that would update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to reflect changes in current technology.

The Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011 would make several changes to the existing law, which dates back to 1998.  Since then, says Rep. Barton, the Internet landscape has changed dramatically.

“The Internet has transformed into an invaluable educational, research and entertainment tool, but with the good comes the bad,” said Barton. “We have reached a troubling point in the state of business when companies that conduct business online are so eager to make a buck, they resort to targeting our children. I strongly believe that information should not be collected on children and used for commercial purposes.

The proposed legislation would make stronger the disclosures required by companies about what sort of information they collect, require parental consent before collecting minors’ personal information, and prohibit the use of information that is collected for marketing purposes.  Additionally, the measure would create “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens” and require companies, where feasible, to erase collected minors’ data upon request by parents.

The legislation would also bring the current law into the mobile age by addressing not only personal information, but geolocation data as well.  Rep. Markey recently called on Congress to address media reports that Apple and Android phones track users personal location data, sometimes for months.

“For millions of kids today, the Internet is their new 21st century playground – they learn, play, and connect with others every day,” said Markey. “The Internet presents a wide array of opportunities to communicate and access entertainment that were unimaginable only a few years ago. But kids growing up in this online environment also need protection from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”

 

A copy of the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011 discussion draft is available here.

Barton, Markey to Wireless Carriers: ‘Do You Track Customers’ Location Info?’

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WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 – Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), Co-Chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus sent letters Tuesday to Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T asking the wireless companies to disclose how the firms collect and stored user location data.

The letters to all four major wireless carriers were sent response to a recent story in the New York Times, which reported that the German mobile provider Deutsche Telekom tracked the locations of German politicians.

Deutsche Telekom currently owns T-Mobile, but AT&T struck a deal early last week to acquire the provider from the German company for $39 billion.

“Location, location, location may be the favored currency of the real estate industry but it is sensitive information for mobile phone users that must be safeguarded,” said Markey in a statement. “Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer’s exact whereabouts for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and violates current law.”

The representatives asked the mobile providers what types of identifiable information the carrier collects and how the data is stored.

The letters also ask the firms to “describe the policies and procedures your company utilizes to comply with Section 222 of the Communications Act,” which requires companies to obtain permission from users before disclosing any location based information.

“Companies have access to basic information about us from bank accounts to – as this case proves – our exact location. It’s like a real world version of the game ‘Where’s Waldo?’” said Barton in a statement. “Hundreds of millions of us are carrying cell phones right now – Are we being tracked? And if so, why don’t we know it?”

Full copies of the letters can be found here: AT&T Sprint Verizon T-Mobile

 

Reps. Barton, Markey Keep Watchful Eye On Facebook Privacy Settings

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WASHINGTON, February 28, 2011 – Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Edward Markey (D-MA), Co-Chairmen of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, shared Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response to a letter they wrote to him on February 2, 2011, questioning a particular privacy feature on Facebook that would potentially share mobile numbers and home addresses with websites and third party-applications.

The February letter to Facebook consisted of 11 bullet points, questioning the type of information the feature will share with third parties, why Facebook decided to suspend the feature, and what changes have been implemented to the feature during its suspension. In addition, the letter questions Facebook’s views on the risks the feature may bring by sharing the personal contact information of children and teenagers.

The representatives seek to clarify Facebook’s current privacy settings, in addition to questioning Facebook’s intent, process and stance on privacy issues in general. Facebook’s potential ability to share the private information of millions of users has drawn the watchful eye of many politicians and users alike.

“I’m pleased that Facebook’s response indicated that it’s looking to enhance its process for highlighting for users when they are being asked for permission to share their contact information,” stated Rep. Markey. “Facebook has indicated that the feature is still a work in progress, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that sensitive personal user data, especially those belonging to children and teenagers, are protected.”

“Facebook has a responsibility to their customers, not just the third party vendors it associates with,” stated Rep. Barton. “I hope they continue to improve protection of users’ private information.”

This exchange is the second between Reps. Markey and Barton and Facebook. The first exchange occurred in October 2010, when the representatives inquired after a report published in the Wall Street Journal that found certain companies were able to access user’s Facebook IDs without the user’s consent. Facebook responded quickly and in full, but did not deny that some third-party applications were transferring personal information and violating Facebook’s privacy code.

The privacy feature in question was temporarily suspended by Facebook on January 14, 2011, though Facebook has said they intend to re-enable the feature.

Rep. Markey is a senior member and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communication, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee in addition to being the House author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

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