Obama may toughen Internet privacy rules, report says

Watchdog planned for online privacy, WSJ report says

The Obama administration is reportedly considering plans to step up policing of Internet privacy issues and to establish a new position to direct the effort.

The plans will be detailed in a report to be released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

As part of the effort, the White House has already established a special task force led by Christopher Schroeder, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, and Cameron Kerry, general counsel of the Commerce Department and brother of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Journal reported.

The White House task force will work on transforming the Commerce Department's recommendations into policy, the story said.

According to the Journal, the recommendations being drafted by the Commerce Department are not final and could still change. While it is unlikely that the department will recommend any specific Internet privacy legislation, the report will highlight the inadequacies of industry self-regulation in the Internet privacy arena, the paper said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reported plans.

The Obama administration's reported push for stronger federal oversight over online privacy is likely to be welcomed by privacy advocates increasingly concerned about the data-collection and data-sharing practices of big Internet companies and marketing companies. High profile cases such as the uproar over Facebook's personal data collection habits and the public reaction to Google's continuing problems over its Street View Wi-Fi snooping have created a broader awareness of online privacy issues.

The big question, though, is just how successful any fresh attempt at enforcing new privacy strictures on the Internet will be. With Republicans soon to be in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives, analysts expect that there will be strong opposition to any attempt to pass privacy mandates on the private sector.

While both parties are seen as sharing a common commitment to bolstering Internet privacy and security, analysts say that the Republican approach will be to foster better privacy through better industry self-regulation, rather than via mandates.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon