Commerce opens suggestion box for online privacy

Officials seek public advice on privacy protections for Internet commerce

The Commerce Department wants to hear from Internet users about how privacy laws in the United States and worldwide affect business innovation and whether they adequately protect consumers.

Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force wants comments on public policy questions related to Internet privacy protections, the department said in a notice of inquiry. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the formation of that task force and the inquiry on April 21.

The responses to the inquiry will be used for a Commerce report about privacy policy challenges and the online economy, the department said. The report would contribute to the Obama administration’s domestic policy and international engagement on Internet privacy, Commerce said.

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Locke said Commerce has made it a top priority to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation while promoting an environment that respects privacy expectations.

U.S. mobile commerce sales accounted for $1.2 billion in 2009, a more than 200 percent increase over the previous year, Commerce said. Analysts predict that 2010, mobile commerce will account for $2.4 billion, the department added.

“Since Internet commerce is dependent on consumer participation, consumers must be able to trust that their personal information is protected online and securely maintained,” the department said in the notice. “At the same time, companies need clear policies that enable the continued development of new business models and the free flow of data across state and international borders in support of domestic and global trade.”

Commerce wants comments on topics that include:

  • The U.S. privacy legal framework and possible ways it could be improved.
  • How the variety of state-level privacy laws affects companies and consumers.
  • How international data privacy laws and regulations affect global Internet commerce and the privacy of Internet users.
  • The jurisdictional conflicts companies and regulators must deal with as a result of data privacy laws and their effect on trade.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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