When Congress wants to learn the basics of online privacy, they turn to some of the the biggest players in the industry. The bipartisan Privacy Working Group, which works on legislation covering Internet privacy, met with representatives from Google, Walmart, and BlueKai on Thursday for what Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told The Hill was a "Privacy 101" crash course on data, demographic tracking, advertising, and the Internet.
In the meeting, representatives for all three companies briefed the Working Group on their practices and privacy policies. Blackburn said, "They feel as if they’re doing some things, but we may want to see if they can do more."
Omar Tawakol, BlueKai's CEO, gave Fast Company some additional details on the talk. "Because of BlueKai's dedication to consumer privacy issues we were invited to provide an educational briefing to the House Commerce Committee's privacy working group. This was their inaugural meeting so we covered the high level operations of digital advertising and data technologies," Tawakol told us via email. "It was a very constructive conversation concerning the value data delivers for consumers and our economy. I am encouraged to see how thoughtful the committee is in its approach to this complex ecosystem."
The Privacy Working group, headed by Blackburn and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), studies Internet privacy issues from the perspective of data-collecting companies, constituents, and pro-privacy lobbying groups. "While advancements in technology have transformed our lives for the better, there has been a related explosion in the online collection of consumer information. It’s more important than ever that we make sure the consumer’s right to privacy is protected. This working group is a bipartisan opportunity to find common ground that ensures consumer privacy as well as continued innovation," Welch said in a release.