Commerce Department Weighs in on Internet Privacy

Online data privacy has become a hotbed issue for regulators.

In addition to a comprehensive report previously issued by the FTC on the same issue, the U.S. Department of Commerce recently released a report entitled “Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: a Dynamic Policy Framework,” in which the Department highlighted the necessity for a new framework to address online privacy issues.  The Department’s Internet Policy Task Force prepared the report, the purpose of which is to offer recommendations that enhance consumer online privacy protection while continuing to foster online business growth.

Included among the report’s many recommendations include the creation of a new Privacy Policy Office within the Commerce Department, the role of which would be to examine how companies utilize consumer data they collect online, and to work with the FTC to help determine where gaps in privacy protection exist.  Another significant recommendation set forth in the report is for the creation of a set of “Fair Information Privacy Principles”, which would serve as a baseline level of online data privacy protection.

According to the Commerce Department, adopting these principles would help consumers to better understand how their data is being used by establishing clearer online data usage limits and enhanced audit requirements.  The policies would be enforced by the FTC.

The report also recommends the enactment of a new commercial data security breach notification law, which it claims will provide clarity to individuals regarding the protection of their information, streamline industry compliance, and allow businesses to develop a strong nationwide data management strategy.  The Commerce Department seeks public comment on the report by January 28, 2011, with a white paper on the subject planned for release in 2011.

Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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