November 12, 2010

Obama, Commerce Department Tackle Internet Privacy


Remember when Senator Robert Torricelli (D - New Jersey) introduced the first Internet privacy bill intended to limit the use of "cookie" files? Cookies, argued Torricelli, can be used by Web advertisers to keep a log of which websites users visit and therefore constitutes an invasion of privacy.

That was 10 years ago. Today, the government is still wrapping its head around the fine line between protecting consumers’ Internet privacy and encouraging technological innovation. Now, the Obama administration is preparing a stepped-up approach to policing Internet privacy that calls for new laws and the creation of a new position to oversee the effort, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The Journal reports that the U.S. Commerce Department is gearing up to release a report detailing the government’s Internet privacy strategy. The report isn't yet final and could change, said sources.

In the meantime, the Journal reports that the White House has created a special task force that is expected to help transform the Commerce Department recommendations into policy. This task force is being spearheaded by Cameron Kerry, the brother of Sen. John Kerry (D. Mass.) and Commerce Department general counsel, and Christopher Schroeder, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.

"In this digital age, a thriving and dynamic economy requires Internet policies that promote innovation domestically and globally while ensuring strong and sensible protections of individuals' private information and the ability of governments to meet their obligations to protect public safety," Kerry and Schroeder wrote in a post to the White House blog announcing the new panel.

The Obama 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," said a Commerce Department spokesman quoted by the Journal. "These are complementary goals, because consumer trust in the Internet is essential for businesses to succeed online."




Edited by Tammy Wolf



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