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Congress Questions How Web Sites Use Personal Data

Congress today summoned executives from Facebook, Google, and Yahoo to inquire about how they are tracking consumers for advertising purposes. The hearing signals an increasing interest on Washington’s part into what online companies are doing with all th
Congress today summoned executives from Facebook, Google, and Yahoo to inquire about how they are tracking consumers for advertising purposes. The hearing signals an increasing interest on Washington’s part into what online companies are doing with all the data they have on their customers. It’s a joint hearing between two House subcommittees, one on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and the other on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. On one side are the privacy advocates, who see this online monitoring as intrusive. “We are being digitally shadowed online,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said in prepared remarks at the hearing. “Our travels through the digital media are being monitored, and digital dossiers on us are being created—and even bought and sold.” On the other side, the industry argues that any privacy regulation would be a huge blow to commerce. Online advertising revenues dropped 5 percent in the first quarter of 2009, the sharpest decline to date, according to a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau report. (One of the stated goals of the bureau, a trade group whose members include AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and most major online media sites, is to “fend off adverse legislation and regulation”).
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