Lawmakers Seek Answers on Online Tracking

U.S. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, are seeking information about the privacy practice of the 15 websites that the Wall Street Journal has identified as installing the most tracking technology on their visitors’ computers.

The representatives, who co-chair the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent letters on Thursday to 15 websites saying they were “troubled by the findings in this report, which suggest that the price of consumers’ daily use of the Internet increasingly is surrender of their personal information.”

The Wall Street Journal’s investigative report, What They Know, found that the top 50 US. websites installed an average of 64 tracking tools on visitors’ computers. Of those files, an average of 44 were installed by outside companies – the rest were installed by the websites themselves. Many of those so-called third party companies are in the business of tracking consumer behavior across the Internet.

In the letters, the lawmakers asked the websites to detail their privacy practices and those of the tracking technologies installed on visitors’ computers by outside companies. The letters also seek information on the types of technologies used for tracking and the types of data collected, and whether the sites are targeting consumers based on health or financial data.

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