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Department of Commerce Issues Policy Framework for Protecting Consumer Privacy


Public Comment Period Open through January 28

The U.S. Department of Commerce's (DOC) Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) released today a report outlining an initial set of recommendations to strengthen the foundation of commercial data privacy in the United States. The report presents a dynamic framework to increase protection of consumers' commercial data and support innovation and evolving technology.

Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework is part of the IPTF's ongoing review of the nexus between privacy policy and innovation in the Internet economy. [see related news item] The DOC is seeking additional public comment on the report to further the policy discussion and ensure the framework benefits all stakeholders in the Internet economy. Comments are due by January 28, 2011 to [email protected].

FTC Report for Businesses and Policymakers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a preliminary staff report proposing a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services.

The report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers, recommends measures to improve the transparency of information practices. Among other actions, the report recommends implementation of a "Do Not Track" mechanism so consumers can choose whether to allow the collection of data regarding their online searching and browsing activities.

The report also recommends allowing consumers reasonable access to the data that companies maintain about them, and the consideration of notices that would allow the public to compare information practices of competing companies.

FTC is seeking public comments on the full report through January 31, 2011. To file a public comment, please click here and follow the instructions.

"The Internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, economic growth, and social communication," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. "Simply stated, the Internet is becoming the central nervous system of our information economy and society."

Over the last 15 years, networked information technologies, including an expanding array of personal computers, cell phones, and other mobile devices, have become integral to economic and social life. The Internet has revolutionized the way we access and use information, engendered new forms of civic participation, and transformed social and cultural connections.

But it has also brought new concerns. Devices and applications that allow the collection and use of detailed personal information can run counter to consumers' privacy expectations.

Addressing commercial data privacy is both an economic and social imperative. Global online transactions now total an estimated $10 trillion annually. Strengthened commercial data privacy protections, the IPTF says, are critical to ensuring that the Internet fulfills its social and economic potential.

The report recommends reinvigorating the commitment to providing consumers with effective transparency relative to data practices, and outlines a process for translating transparency into consumer choices through a voluntary, multi-stakeholder process.

The framework aims to protect privacy, transparency, and informed consumer choice while recognizing the dynamic nature of technologies and markets, and encouraging continued innovation. Included in the report's recommendations is the consideration of a federal commercial data security breach notification (SBN) law that sets national standards, addresses how to reconcile inconsistent state laws, and authorizes enforcement by state authorities.

U.S. Leadership in Global Privacy Discussions
The report contends that a stronger commercial data privacy foundation would further strengthen the U.S.'s leadership position in global commercial data privacy discussions.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) administers a virtual U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) Technical Management Board (TMB) Privacy Steering Committee (PSC). In this role, ANSI is responsible for carrying forward U.S. positions in this area. [see related news item]

The PSC is charged with implementing recommendations addressing the issue of ISO technical standards and privacy, with specific focus on the protection of personally identifiable information and fair information handling.

The ANSI virtual U.S. TAG is chaired by Scott Matthews, acting assistant director in the Office of Technology and Electronic Commerce at the DOC. Mark MacCarthy, adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Communication, Culture, and Technology Program, and former senior vice president of global public policy for Visa Inc., serves as ANSI's expert to the PSC.

Persons interested in participating in the ANSI virtual TAG may contact Jim McCabe, ANSI senior director of consumer relations and IDSP (Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel) at [email protected].


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