The New York Times reports on what it calls a battle brewing over online privacy:
After “do not call” lists became popular, more than 90 percent of people who signed up reported fewer annoying telemarketing calls. Now, privacy advocates are pushing for a similar “do not track” feature that would let Internet users tell Web sites to stop surreptitiously tracking their online habits and collecting clues about age, salary, health, location and leisure activities.
That proposal and other ideas to protect online privacy are setting up a confrontation among Internet companies, federal regulators, the Obama administration and Congress over how strict any new rules should be. In the next few weeks, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department are planning to release independent, and possibly conflicting, reports about online privacy. […]
Consumer advocates worry that the competing agendas of economic policy makers in the Obama administration, who want uniform international standards, and federal regulators, who are trying to balance consumer protection and commercial rights, will neglect the interests of people most affected by the privacy policies. […]
In addition, the major online companies have the reports in their sights, worried over a raft of potential new regulations. They would prefer that the industry continue to police itself. […]
The White House, meanwhile, has broader goals. It set up its own interagency panel that will look at how to protect consumers while also making United States companies more competitive internationally. It also wants to ensure that any restrictions do not impede law enforcement and national security efforts. […]
Congress also is expected to intervene, and this may be one area where there is bipartisan cooperation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the trade commission and privacy issues, will soon have a Republican at its head, but members of both parties in the House and Senate have recently called on companies to account for intrusions or breaches of consumer privacy.