John Kerry

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Even as it defends the National Security Agency’s controversial Internet surveillance programs, the Obama administration has been working on legislation to boost online privacy safeguards for consumers. The fact that the administration is trying to advance such a measure—amid reports that the government can access people’s online communications—speaks to growing tensions with Europe over privacy. Top European Union officials have called for tighter data rules for U.S. Internet companies, and a base-line privacy bill would strengthen the administration’s hand in negotiating with Europe

Earlier this year, senior members of President Barack Obama’s campaign team took a trip to Las Vegas. Nevada holds a special place in Obama-wonk lore as the place where his months-long strategy of defeating Hillary Clinton by slowly and surely amassing delegates emerged. But the operatives were not there in March for any political reason. They were there to make money—specifically to land what they hoped would be the first corporate client for their new advertising business, Analytics Media Group (A.M.G.). Its bland name obscures its relatively grand promise: to deliver to commercial advertisers some of the Obama campaign's secret,

While Senators John Kerry and John McCain were introducing their Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights to the Senate, Jerry Cerasale, the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) senior vice president of government affairs, delivered a battle plan for direct marketers to keep their businesses out of the muck and ahead of legislative handcuffs. "I've been with the DMA 16 years," says Cerasale, "and I don't think we've ever been under attack like we are today."

Although the future and final shape of any "Do Not Track" legislation remain unclear, the effects on the online advertising world—and how consumers browse and experience the Web—are likely to be significant and far-reaching. Though the promise of greater privacy may sound alluring in the abstract, in practical terms consumers have a lot more to lose if online tracking disappears.

Senators John Kerry and John McCain will introduce legislation today that spells out how companies should handle consumers' personal information both online and offline. The senators will unveil The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, which "establishes a framework to protect the personal information of all Americans both online and offline."

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