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iBrowse: Feds call for Internet privacy


The federal government has put Google, Microsoft, Apple and other technology companies on notice: Give consumers a way to prevent advertisers from tracking their movements across the Web -- or face regulation.

The technology industry has yet to agree on a meaningful solution to protect consumer privacy on the Internet. So privacy watchdogs and lawmakers are stepping up pressure, calling for laws that would require companies to stop digital surveillance of consumers who don't want to be tracked. They say privacy tools are long overdue.

"I want ordinary consumers to know what is being done with their personal information, and I want to give them the power to do something about it," Senate Commerce Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) said. Washington's call to arms is a response to concern that invasive Internet marketing practices are eroding privacy online as every consumer move is observed, analyzed and harvested for profit.

Online publishers, advertisers and ad networks use "cookies," Web beacons and other tools to follow consumers on the 'Net -- monitoring sites they visit and what they buy. Then, they mine the information to deliver what they hope will be relevant pitches.

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