Last year, there were a number of bills introduced in Congress concerning privacy and civil liberties, but most have stalled. Some bills introduced last year: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the “Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act of 2011” (archive pdf; THOMAS status link for H.R. 2168); Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011 (pdf) (Do Not Track proposals would allow consumers to restrict the data gathered by Web sites and marketers on the consumers’ online browsing or purchases); Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011 (archive pdf) (Leahy first introduced this legislation in 2005 and had sponsored the legislation three times since); Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 (pdf); and, there has been much discussion of revising the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (“ECPA,” also known as Title 18 § 2511 of the United States Code) and several bills have been introduced, which are discussed in this CRS report.
Now, the National Journal reports that privacy will remain a hot topic, even though legislation on the issue has stalled in Congress.
While few expect Congress to pass broad privacy legislation, privacy will still get a lot of attention in 2012, starting with the release in the coming weeks of two highly anticipated federal reports providing guidance on protecting consumer privacy online.
Both the Commerce Department and the Federal Trade Commission are set to release separate final reports with recommendations on how to improve online privacy.
Commerce, which could release its final report the last week of January, will outline the Obama administration’s policy on the issue. Since issuing its draft report in December 2010, the administration has called on Congress to pass legislation that would provide consumers with privacy protections based on the Fair Information Practice Principles embraced by many countries. These include providing consumers with notice about the information being collected about them, choice, access to the information, and security to ensure the data is protected.
In its draft staff report, also released in December 2010, the FTC did not call on Congress to pass privacy legislation but it did come out in support of a system that would give consumers a choice on whether they want to be tracked online. During a briefing on Thursday sponsored by Microsoft, Maneesha Mithal with the FTC’ s Bureau of Consumer Protection said the commission is aiming to release its final privacy report in the coming weeks. […]
The Commerce Department report could come out days before the European Commission releases its proposed changes to its privacy directive, which could affect U.S. companies that do business in Europe or operate websites used by Europeans. The commission is expected to call for making the directive a regulation to be imposed on its member states. […]
Because the United States does not have a broad privacy law, U.S. companies have managed to comply with the EU privacy directive through a safe-harbor agreement with the European Union. But Future of Privacy Forum Cochairman Christopher Wolf said the EU may reevaluate that agreement in light of the proposed changes to its privacy directive. Some privacy advocates have argued that the EU’s changes may ultimately force the United States to bolster its privacy protections.