The Federal Trade Commission has looked at regulating online privacyfor nearly a year now. There have been several roundtable discussions in which stakeholders from government, industry and consumer representatives participated. But nothing definitive came out of them.
Various members of Congress have also addressed the privacy issues in proposed legislation. But as I mentioned last week, Republican victories in many midterm elections mean the future of privacy legislation may be in question.
This week, The New York Times reports the Department of Commerce is adding its approach to the mix at about the same time the FCC's report is due, and the two appear to conflict. Writers Edward Wyatt and Tanzina Vega explain:
Top Commerce officials have indicated that the department favors letting the industry regulate itself, building on the common practice of user agreements where companies post their privacy policies online. Top trade commission officials, however, have indicated they are exploring a stricter standard, one that requires a "do not track" option on a Web site or browser...
If that isn't enough, the Commerce report is expected to reveal the Obama Administration's plan to create an "online privacy watchdog" position, according to The Wall Street Journal. Commerce Department general counsel Cameron Kerry (brother to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.) and assistant attorney general Christopher Schroeder have been appointed to lead a task force that will take the Commerce Department's recommendations on the issues and turn them into policy, the story says.