The Wall Street Journal continues its in-depth report, “What They Know,” about the state of surveillance in the United States and how these surveillance programs affect individual privacy. In the latest installment, the Journal reports possible moves by the Obama administration concerning online privacy.
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 people familiar with the situation. The strategy is expected to be unveiled in a report being issued by the U.S. Commerce Department in coming weeks, these people said. The report isn’t yet final and could change, these people said.
In a related move, the White House has created a special task force that is expected to help transform the Commerce Department recommendations into policy, these people said. The White House task force, set up three weeks ago, is led 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. […]
Yet the administration faces significant obstacles to enacting its privacy agenda. While the Republicans who now control the House of Representatives generally support privacy, they are unlikely to support any bill to expand the enforcement powers of the Federal Trade Commission, GOP congressional aides say. Privacy advocates will be reluctant to back legislation that lacks enforcement and is perceived as toothless.
There is no comprehensive U.S. law that protects consumer privacy online. Internet privacy issues generally are policed by the FTC, which can take action only if a privacy-violating action is deemed “deceptive” or “unfair.” […]
The central issue in writing federal privacy legislation is whether the Internet industry’s efforts to police its own behavior has been effective enough. Proponents of legislation argue the industry is a Wild West where consumer data are gathered and sold without restrictions. Opponents of legislation say the industry is committed to providing tools to give consumers better insight into and control over data about themselves.