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FTC, White House Continue Push for Online Privacy Laws

23 May, 2012 By: Jackie Jones

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration last week backed the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) push for Congress to enact online privacy legislation, saying new laws would even out competition between companies that already had privacy policies and those who didn’t, escaping regulatory oversight, according to multiple media reports and testimony from the hearing.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, and Cameron F. Kerry, general counsel for the Commerce Department, spoke to members of the Senate commerce committee earlier this month, arguing that giving the FTC power to enforce new online privacy laws with civil penalties would promote E-commerce and increase consumer trust in online transactions.

“Granting direct enforcement authority to the FTC would enable the commission o take action against outliers and bad actors, even if their actions do not violate a published privacy policy,” Kerry said at the Senate meeting.

While the FTC currently monitors Internet companies’ privacy policies on how, when and where they share consumers’ personal information, it has no authority to penalize companies for any infractions. Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va., head of the Senate committee, also expressed support for what he called “strong consumer-focused privacy legislation this year.”

The Obama administration has long been a proponent of Congress establishing a federal law in support of consumers’ rights, while marketers and industry associations have instead supported self-regulation programs (Response This Week, March 22, 2011).

“We agree with the need for greater consumer understanding and control. Self-regulation provided by the industry is more beneficial to consumers than anything the government can recommend or implement, precisely because businesses are able to move more quickly answering consumer needs than the legislative or regulatory processes ever could,” Lawrence M. Kimmel, then DMA’s chief executive officer, said last year.

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