Irony - Administration Proposes Internet Privacy Czar

Sunday, November 14, 2010



The Wall Street Journal is reporting that anonymous sources have indicated the Obama Administration may soon propose increased regulatory powers for one or more federal departments in an effort to shore up Internet privacy efforts meant to protect consumers.

The unnamed sources said to be familiar with the nature of proposal said that the administration favors the creation of a"Privacy Czar" and that an announcement may accompany pending recommendations from a joint Department of Commerce and Department of Justice task formed several weeks ago.

The Commerce Department insists the administration is

 "committed to promoting policies that will preserve consumer privacy online while ensuring the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs, and economic growth. These are complementary goals, because consumer trust in the Internet is essential for businesses to succeed online."

The Federal Trade Commission is also expected to recommend the creation of an ant-tracking tool that would allow consumers to prevent the use of cookies and other means of collecting data on Internet usage and preferences.

Privacy advocates say the proposals do not go far enough, while marketing and advertising industry groups favor continuing the self-governing systems already in place:

"We believe we are living up to consumer-privacy expectations and are very advanced in privacy protections and innovation," said Mike Zaneis, an executive with the the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

While protecting consumer privacy is paramount, the creation of additional levels of bureaucracy and regulatory red tape will probably do little to further consumer rights, especially after special interest lobbyists leverage their power in the shaping of the legislation.

It is also somewhat ironic to think that an increase in government monitoring and policing of online activities will do anything to increase privacy for consumers. As a free society, we need to be careful about empowering federal bureaucracies in order to preserve individual freedoms.


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Karima Saini Now that we are living the fruits of the Information Super Highway, shouldn’t the Dept of Commerce and the FTC unify the patchwork of existing privacy laws and identify gaps that need to be filled and eliminate redundant and conflicting privacy laws and principles?

The time has arrived for identifying and installing a bright, balanced and broad-minded privacy czar to execute a comprehensive, harmonized vision of best practices in handling personal and corporate collection, retention, access, usage and deletion of privacy-related data.

Perceived benefits: (i) Companies wanting to comply with privacy laws but confused by the eclectic systems/rules/divisions will have access to a single, centralized office (presumably with useful and accurate references and tools), (ii) the resulting harmonized and focused oversight of privacy laws will bring the USA increased credibility with foreign businesses, (iii) US businesses will increase their capability to expand business activities abroad (or even just a few miles north, with Canada), etc.
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