"Somebody is watching you, somebody is tracking your every moment you are
online, comparing the practice to a private investigator following your
everywhere." - Senator John Kerry
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee heard testimony
from the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department on the
guidelines both agencies have set down for privacy moving forward. The
hearing was held to further discuss President Obama's proposed online
Privacy Bill of Rights. The White House privacy bill of rights declares that
consumers have the right to control the data that groups collect on them and
the right of access to that data.
In his opening statement, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the committee
chairman, said he was concerned that the models of self-regulation proposed
by both agencies may not best serve the average consumer. "I believe
consumers need strong legal protections. They need simple and
easy-to-understand rules about how, what and when their information can be
collected and used. They need easy-to-understand privacy policies rather
than pages of incomprehensible legalese."
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz and newly appointed Commissioner Maureen
Ohlhausen testified. She was once policy counsel for the Business Policy
Software Alliance, an anti-piracy group. The Commerce Department's general
counsel, Cameron Kerry, was also on the panel. He is the brother of Senator
John Kerry (D-MA) who with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has sponsored privacy
legislation to address similar issues. Senator Kerry, a member of the
committee, suggested that his bipartisan bill with Senator McCain could
serve as a starting point for developing standards.
Cameron Kerry's testimony stems from the fact that the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department
of Commerce is pushing discussions between various consumer groups to
develop "industry specific codes of conduct for privacy."
Members of the committee were not in agreement. Senator Kerry and Democrat
members called for the implementation of the President's privacy framework.
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) did not see the need for privacy protections of
any kind. He called for a cost-benefit analysis and stated for the
government to ask companies to alter their business model was irresponsible.
He doubted there had been actual consumer harm.
Senator Rockefeller stated in a world where the "Internet has fundamentally
transformed every aspect of our lives, unfettered collection of online data
poses significant risks. He cautioned that self-regulation is "inherently
one sided" and that "consumers' rights always seem to lose out to the
FTC Chairman Leibowitz countered by stating that the Digital Advertising
Alliance has made meaningful progress on the do-not-track and
self-regulatory efforts but also stated "We have to make sure do-not-track
is, with a few exceptions, do not collect."
There appeared to be no consensus on what privacy legislation is needed to
develop consumer privacy protections.
ISPLA Director of Government Affairs
Your Proactive Voice from State Capitols to the Nation's Capitol
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