On March 16, 2011, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling called on Congress to enact robust, baseline legislation to “reform consumer data privacy in the Internet economy.” Speaking before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Assistant Secretary Strickling emphasized the Department of Commerce’s support for a legislative proposal that would adopt many of the recommendations of the “Green Paper,” a Department report authored last December.

In prepared remarks, Assistant Secretary Strickling stated, “Having carefully reviewed all stakeholder comments to the Green Paper, the Department has concluded that the U.S. consumer data privacy framework will benefit from legislation to establish a clearer set of rules for the road for businesses and consumers, while preserving the innovation and free flow of information that are hallmarks of the Internet.”

The proposed legislation would include several key elements, such as:

  • Enacting a baseline “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” that invokes several Fair Information Practice Principles discussed in the Green Paper;
  • Implementing online Codes of Conduct developed through the input of diverse stakeholders, including individuals from government agencies and the commercial, consumer advocacy and academic sectors;
  • Empowering the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the legislation’s provisions while creating industry incentives for compliance; and
  • Establishing limiting principles to avoid duplicative and cumbersome privacy legislation while achieving a clear statutory regime.

Among its next steps in crafting its Internet privacy policy, Assistant Secretary Strickling noted the Department of Commerce’s potential role in mediating discussions and highlighted the Obama administration’s involvement with the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a separate initiative that “envisions enhancing online privacy and security through services that provide credentials that improve upon the username and password schemes that are common online.” 

View a copy of Assistant Secretary Strickling’s prepared testimony.