U.S. Department of Commerce issues report on online data privacy

On the heels of FTC's report on web privacy, the U.S. Department of Commerce released its own findings on the state of online privacy and issued recommendations for how to address the growing privacy concerns of consumers while maintaining the Internet platform which supports creativity, innovation, economic growth and job creation. The Commerce Department offered U.S. lawmakers several guidelines aimed at achieving the objective above:

  • Consider Establishing Fair Information Practice Principles comparable to a “Privacy Bill of Rights” for Online Consumers
  • Consider Developing Enforceable Privacy Codes of Conduct in Specific Sectors with Stakeholders; Create a Privacy Policy Office in the Department of Commerce
  • Encourage Global Interoperability to Spur Innovation and Trade
  • Consider How to Harmonize Disparate Security Breach Notification Rules
  • Review the Electronic Communications Privacy Act for the Cloud Computing Environment.

The Wall Street Journal called these proposals a "turning point," marking the administration's shift away from self-regulation in the online industry. The Journal also noted that future legislative action on this issue is likely to happen as soon as 2011, and that such legislation would enjoy rare bipartisan support in Washington.


 Via the Journal:

It's unclear how strict a bill Congress would entertain. Sen. John Kerry, (D., Mass.), said he plans to incorporate the recommendations into legislation he is crafting for the next Congress.

Any bill would have to clear the Republican-controlled House. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.), who worked on a draft privacy bill this year, said he agreed with the Commerce Department's goals but cautioned the administration against usurping Congressional power. "I welcome the input from the FTC and the Department of Commerce, but Congress is the most appropriate venue for online privacy," he said.

You can read the report here.

"U.S. Seeks Web Privacy 'Bill of Rights,'" The Wall Street Journal (December 17, 2010).


FTC proposes new privacy framework

In a highly anticipated move, on December 1, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its report and recommendations regarding protecting personal information gathered online. The FTC recommended moving away from self-regulation by the industry towards a more European, “privacy-by-design” approach, which offers a much greater degree of protection to individuals, including by requiring businesses collecting data online to build privacy protections into their everyday business practices and retain data on consumer preferences and online browsing activity only as long as needed and deleting data on a regular basis.  

While this privacy framework may not be enforceable on its own, FTC’s recommendations therein are expected to be the basis of a broader legislative action. A comprehensive data privacy bill has been circulating in Congress for some time now. For example, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Rep. Rich Boucher (D-VA), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Kerry (D-MA) have been working on legislation regulating and protecting an individual’s personal information. In fact, according to Rep. Joe Barton, a key figure on the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, privacy legislation is expected to advance despite the takeover of the House by the Republicans.

You can view the full report here.

You can view FTC's press release here.

"Agency Proposes ‘Do Not Track’ Option for Web Users," New York Times (December 1, 2010).