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Congress and President Obama’s Administration Continue to Debate Privacy Regulation

The Obama administration recently announced that it is preparing a report that will be issued by the U.S. Commerce Department regarding Internet privacy regulation. The Commerce Department’s report is intended to outline the Obama administration’s approach to regulating Internet privacy and steps that should be taken to protect consumers’ online privacy. While the report purportedly does not recommend specific legislation, it does indicate that self-regulation is not as robust and effective as the administration believes privacy protection should be and that Internet privacy protection should be strengthened. The Commerce Department’s report is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

This announcement follows the creation by the White House of a National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy, comprised of representatives from federal departments, agencies, and offices, including the Department of Commerce, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). In addition to the Obama Administration’s efforts regarding privacy protection, the FTC has indicated that it will release a comprehensive report by the end of the year regarding the “Exploring Privacy” roundtables that were hosted by the Commission in fall 2009 and early 2010. The report will also contain recommendations for privacy protection and changes to the FTC’s privacy protection framework. Further, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), currently the ranking minority member of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, has indicated that he intends to support tougher Internet privacy polices when Congress begins its January 2011 session.

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