Start-up NebuAd had hoped to build a business on monitoring broadband customers' Web browsing and delivering relevant ads. Then its partners began dropping out, its chief executive resigned, and earlier this month the company suspended its business plan.
Never let it be said that politicians are quick on the uptake. The Senate Commerce Committee nevertheless is holding a hearing on Thursday morning to investigate the NebuAd-ish privacy practices of broadband providers. (Who, remember, aren't using NebuAd.)
One noteworthy development is that Verizon -- which, we should point out, has never been a NebuAd partner -- is going to suggest a plan that amounts to a self-regulatory mechanism and no new federal laws.
Some highlights from Verizon's proposal, according to a statement from executive vice president Tom Tauke:
* Consent: "Transparency involves conspicuous, clearly explained disclosure to consumers as to what types of data are collected and for what purpose that data is being used, how that data is retained and for how long, and who is permitted access to the data... a consumer's failure to consent should mean that there is no collection and use of that consumer's information."
* Security: "Any company engaged in tracking and collecting consumer online behavioral information must have appropriate access, security, and technological controls."
* Sensitive information: Sensitive details such as visiting certain medical Web sites "should not be collected and used for online behavioral advertising unless specific, affirmative consent, and customer controls are in place to limit such use."
Violations would be punished by the Federal Trade Commission under its authority to restrict unfair or deceptive trade practices.