Will the News of the World voicemail snooping saga accelerate US privacy reform?

The United States is one the few countries in the developed world that lacks a comprehensive law protecting consumer privacy. Geolocation, personalized ads, group-buying deals, tracking cookies and other technologies have a wide range of privacy implications. Incidents like the phone-hacking scandal in the U.K. underscore the growing concern among both the general public and Congress here in the U.S.

Unlike citizens in Europe, Asia and Latin America, U.S. laws addressing rights and obligations surrounding sensitive-information tend to be sector-specific and inconsistent (HIPPA, COPPA, etc.). Notably, the FTC, the federal agency tasked with safeguarding consumers, has taken a largely laissez-faire approach. The result of Guidelines and enforcement actions is essentially a policy of “do as you like, just don’t lie about it.”

While congressional attention has been focused on updating the regulatory regime, the current legislation reflects the piecemeal approach of the past. Here is a break-down of the Five leading government privacy initiatives. Bills starting with H.R. are from the US House, and bills starting with S. are from the US Senate. The numbers are from the 112th Congress: 2011-2012.

H.R. 654: Do Not Track Me Online Act, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier [D-CA12] is to direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe regulations regarding the collection and use of information obtained by tracking the Internet activity of an individual, introduced Feb 11, 2011. Status: This bill is in the first step in the legislative process.

S. 913: Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. John Rockefeller [D-WV] is a bill to require the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe regulations regarding the collection and use of personal information obtained by tracking the online activity of an individual, introduced May 9, 2011. Status: This bill is in the first step in the legislative process.

H.R. 1895: Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011, sponsored by Representatives Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Barton, Texas Republican, is aimed specifically at internet marketing to minors, introduced May 13, 2011. Status: This bill is in the first step in the legislative process.

S. 413: Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011, associated with the phrase the “internet kill switch” was, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I-CT], introduced Feb 17, 2011. Status: This bill is in the first step in the legislative process.

S. 799: Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry [D-MA] Introduced Apr 12, 2011. Status: This bill is in the first step in the legislative process

Complete text of the various bills is available at GovTrack.us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David M. Adler, Esq. is an attorney, author, educator, entrepreneur and partner at the boutique intellectual property, entertainment & media law firm LEAVENS, STRAND, GLOVER & ADLER, LLC based in Chicago, Illinois. My responsibilities include providing advice to business units and executives on copyright, trademark, ecommerce, software/IT, media & entertainment and issues associated with creating and commercializing innovations and creative content, drafting and negotiating contracts and licenses, advising on securities laws and corporate governance and managing outside counsel. Learn more about me here: http://www.ecommerceattorney.com and here: hLeavens Strand Glover & Adler, LLC

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2 thoughts on “Will the News of the World voicemail snooping saga accelerate US privacy reform?

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