Congress should create a single website that consumers can visit to opt out of the collection of information on their transactions.
The options should be detailed enough so that consumers who want merchants to know of their interests in some things can indicate that, while still blocking sale of other information.
Merchants that collect information about consumers should be obliged to respect consumer choices, just as telemarketers must honor the “do-not-call” list. Merchants should be able to sell information about sensitive subjects, like illnesses, only if consumers affirmatively grant permission to do so.
Privacy policies should be standardized, brief, written in plain English and link to the opt-out website. If the result is fewer free websites, at least that will reflect what consumers want, rather than what businesses have decided for them. I may now be cancer-free, but until Congress acts, I am also privacy-free.