Do Not Track Legislation: Rep. Mary Bono Mack Sees No Public Demand for Internet Privacy Law

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 30 2012 8:30 AM

Do Not Track Legislation: Rep. Mary Bono Mack Sees No Public Demand for Internet Privacy Law

77809102
Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., hasn't heard public demand for Internet privacy legislation.

Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/Getty Images for ASCAP

Research shows that Internet privacy is an ongoing issue of concern to consumers, whether we’re talking Facebook or search engines. In a Pew Internet survey on search engine use, released earlier this month, 73 percent of respondents said they would “not be OK” with search engines “keeping rack of [their] searches and using that information to personalize [their] future search results because [they] feel it is an invasion of privacy.” Pew Internet found that this applied to all age groups, but was especially evident in users over 50—a rather politically active cohort.

However, a New York Times piece about yesterday’s House subcommittee meeting on “do not track” and other Internet privacy policies shows that these widespread concerns may not be reaching members of Congress. The meeting, attended by technology firms, the FTC chairman, advertising companies, and other interested parties, included discussion of possible legislation meant to protect Internet privacy. But:

“Before we do any possible harm to the Internet, we need to understand what harm is actually being done to consumers,” Representative Mary Bono Mack, a California Republican and subcommittee chairwoman, said at the hearing. “Where is the public outcry for legislation? Today, I’m simply not hearing it. I haven’t gotten a single letter from anyone back home urging me to pass a privacy bill.”
Advertisement

Bono Mack's anecdote, if true, demonstrates the gap between what consumers say they want from Internet companies and what they advocate for. In a survey, of course people say the issue concerns them. But in practice, few of us read privacy policies, learn how to protect ourselves and our data, or take other action. Apparently, that action includes raising the issue with representatives.

This isn't to say that a “privacy bill” is necessarily the best or only solution to the problem of Internet companies not taking consumer rights more seriously. But it is nevertheless emblematic of the gap between what consumers say they want and what they are advocating for.

Read more on the New York Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 29 2014 10:00 PM “Everything Must Change in Italy” An interview with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 29 2014 12:01 PM This Is Your MOM’s Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.