Politico reports that the Obama White House is making moves toward legislation concerning online privacy:
Even as it defends the National Security Agency’s controversial Internet surveillance programs, the Obama administration has been working on legislation to boost online privacy safeguards for consumers.
The fact that the administration is trying to advance such a measure — amid reports that the government can access people’s online communications — speaks to growing tensions with Europe over privacy. Top European Union officials have called for tighter data rules for U.S. Internet companies, and a base-line privacy bill would strengthen the administration’s hand in negotiating with Europe. […]
The administration’s proposal builds on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a blueprint the White House released last year, sources familiar with the plan said. The bill would define privacy rights and convene Internet companies and consumer advocates to hammer out industry codes of conduct based on the principles. The FTC would have the authority to enforce the codes of conduct generated by those talks.
The administration hasn’t finalized the measure but is trying to build support for it on Capitol Hill, a source with direct knowledge of the effort said. It’s not clear what impact the government shutdown has had on the effort.
“The critical path to moving something forward is to work with people in Congress,” the source said. “Suffice it to say, if this were a matter of the administration producing a bill, it would be out there already.”
The White House referred questions to the Commerce Department, which is helping to draft the legislation. A Commerce Department spokesperson declined to comment.
While the administration has been actively working on the bill since early this year, Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks have complicated the effort. On one hand, the surveillance revelations have prompted European officials to raise new concerns about U.S. Internet companies, adding urgency to the White House push for a privacy bill. But it also has made such legislation a tougher political sell, given the backlash against the NSA’s own controversial data collection.
What’s more, there’s been little appetite in Congress for legislating consumer privacy in recent years. A bill to create an online Do Not Track system failed to advance this year, as did broader privacy legislation from then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2011.