Online Privacy Debate Heats Up with FTC and Commerce Dept. Reports Coming Soon

The Commerce Department and FTC will soon be releasing reports outlining the Obama administration’s position on online privacy issues, making this the first acting administration in U.S. history to introduce or endorse a federal privacy law. With the rise of social networks, online shopping, and targeted advertising, the topic of online privacy has ignited a heated debate between companies and consumers. Companies blame consumers for not utilizing privacy tools in place, while consumers expect companies to be clear about information collected and how to opt-out when necessary. Jules Polonetsky, the Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, believes privacy legislation is on its way and, “If we are able to craft privacy law that supports innovation [and] gives users more protection, we’ll win.” The Commerce Department framework would likely encourage companies to develop rules for their industries, potentially enforced by the FTC’s Safe Harbor rules. Polonetsky also notes that companies who want to avoid federal legislation need to be proactively proving they are self-regulating.

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