Commerce Dept. Recommends Privacy Legislation

Would establish clearer set of guidelines for businesses, consumers; Kerry to introduce a bill
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The Obama administration has decided to recommend privacy
legislation.

That is according to the testimony of National
Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Lawrence
Strickling. NTIA is
the administration's chief communications policy adviser.

The Commerce Department released a Green Paper three months
ago, and after reviewing comments, Strickling told a Senate Communications
Subcommittee hearing ("The State of Online Consumer Privacy") audience Wednesday that Commerce (which oversees NTIA)
"has concluded that the U.S.
consumer data privacy framework will benefit from legislation to establish a
clearer set of rules for the road for businesses and consumers."

At the hearing. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said that he would be introducing a bill to create a privacy Bill of Rights.

Both the Commerce Department and the Federal Trade
Commission have been studying the issue and encouraging self-regulation, while
suggesting Congressional action might be needed as a backstop.

In testimony before the committee, Strickling said one
of the issues was the increasing use of smaller, mobile video screen, where
disclosures could become more problematic and location-based information raises
new privacy issues.

"The Administration urges Congress to enact a "consumer
privacy bill of rights" to provide baseline consumer data privacy
protections," said Strickling. They should be enforceable by the FTC, with
an opportunity of a safe harbor for companies who sufficiently self-regulate.

Strickling also suggested limitations on the
legislation, including that it not add "duplicative or overly burdensome
regulatory requirements," should be "technology neutral" and
reduced burdens for companies already facing "numerous foregin
privacy laws."

With or without legislation, says Strickling, NTIA
will bring stakeholders together to encourage them to come up with privacy
codes of conduct.

Strickling was preaching to the choir on the need
for stronger privacy protections. It is one of the key issues for Commerce
Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.),
particularly as it pertains to protecting kids online. Rockefeller was unable to attend the hearing, but Kerry shares that keen interest in privacy.

Strickling emphasized that the goal was to provide a framework in which industruy could fill in the details, rather than have government impose restrictive regulations.

Kerry echoed that sentiment, saying his goal was to do no harm while at the same time protecting privacy and, ad the end of the day, to have all stakeholders can "stand up and say this is good."

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