Republican Senator Josh Hawley is planning to introduce his “Do Not Track Act” this Thursday. The act aims to reinforce “Do Not Track”, an internet feature that allows users to block websites from collecting their personal data.
The FTC has endorsed “Do Not Track” in 2010, however complying with these user requests is still voluntary. Sen. Hawley’s bill would make it illegal for a website to track a user despite their preferences.
In a statement Sen. Hawley commented on the power of big tech and their data harvesting practices: “Big tech companies collect incredible amounts of deeply personal, private data from people without giving them the option to meaningfully consent,” he said.
“They have gotten incredibly rich by employing creepy surveillance tactics on their users, but too often the extent of this data extraction is only known after a tech company irresponsibly handles the data and leaks it all over the internet. The American people didn’t sign up for this, so I’m introducing this legislation to finally give them control over their personal information online.”
Hawley’s bill would extend the “Do Not Track” service beyond browsers, to all internet activities. Users would have the ability to block programs and apps from harvesting more data than what they strictly need to function properly.
The bill would also prohibit the profiling or discrimination of users who activate the service, ban data transfers/data markets between companies under most circumstances and impose harsh penalties for any violation of the bill. The service would be available to users through their browsers in the settings – as it is currently happening – or by downloading a specific app.
The “Do Not Track Act” would have a specific impact on some of the most talked-about tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. All these companies are undergoing close scrutiny for their data harvesting and tracking practices, and at the moment none of them honors the existing “Do Not Track” system.
Earlier this month, DuckDuckGo CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg drafted the Do Not Track Act of 2019. He is now endorsing the Missouri Republican’s effort.
“Senator Hawley recognizes the pervasive nature of online tracking, and we’re thrilled he is taking legislative action to combat it,” Weinberg said. “Our research shows tens of millions of Americans are right now broadcasting Do Not Track browsing signals that Big Tech is ignoring.”
Sen. Hawley, the Senate’s youngest member, was able to take a step away from traditional conservative views and is calling for an increasingly strong presence of the government in big tech’s regulation.