The Department of Commerce explores privacy

In April the Department of Commerce announced the formation of an Internet Policy Task Force to look at the various issues affecting economic growth and job creation through the Internet. Today, the task force issued its first report, a green paper on the framework that the Commerce Department intends to apply to questions about online privacy.

Like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which released its own privacy report a couple weeks ago, the Department of Commerce is looking for a fresh approach to privacy and a better way to help consumers understand what happens to data online. In particular, the green paper focuses on the need for all global stakeholders — including companies, advocates, and government — to work together to proactively improve privacy. We strongly support the Commerce Department engaging more actively internationally including the creation of a global framework for privacy to better address international data flows. The report also stresses the importance of preserving and encouraging innovation on the Internet. Additionally, the Department calls for a re-examination of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — generally known by its acronym, ECPA — which dates back to 1986. We’re on board with that, since the outdated law simply has not kept pace with evolving technologies.

We support the Department of Commerce’s recommendation for privacy to be approached comprehensively and broadly, with a clear focus both on users and innovation on the Internet. This kind of thoughtful approach to a complex issue like privacy shows leadership and expertise, and we look forward to further dialogue with the Department of Commerce, the FTC, and others as we consider the issues that the green paper has raised.