Yesterday the Obama Administration announced its support for baseline consumer privacy legislation. This is the first time in history that the White House has called for a baseline consumer privacy bill. In a Senate hearing entitled The State of Online Consumer Privacy , Commerce Department Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling acknowledged  that the United States’ current patchwork of data privacy laws is insufficient and called for "[a]n overarching set of privacy principles on which consumers and businesses can rely could create a stronger foundation for consumer trust in the Internet." Accordingly, he said, "The Administration urges Congress to enact a ‘consumer privacy bill of rights’ to provide baseline consumer data privacy protections."
The Administration’s support is good news. It is the latest voice in a growing chorus of support for modern privacy protections online. Today’s hearing comes in the wake of a flurry of activity: dual privacy reports from the Federal Trade Commission  and the Department of Commerce , a vigorous discussion focused on "Do Not Track" policies  and tools, and a number of congressional bills. Most recently, Senators John McCain and John Kerry have been circulating draft privacy legislation—a sign of bipartisan progress—and garnering industry support.
The Commerce Department recommended today a comprehensive framework to implement the Fair Information Practice Principles (pdf ), a collection of agreed-upon principles for the handling of consumer information. With these broad principles as a baseline, the FTC, industry, and consumer groups could work together to build binding codes of conduct that are appropriate and adaptable. This is a strong, flexible methodology that will permit data privacy protections to stay current without repeated Congressional intervention.
The momentum for privacy legislation continues to build. The Administration's vision for a comprehensive consumer privacy bill echoes CDT’s advocacy of more than a decade. As businesses increasingly  recognize  that the U.S. needs a privacy protection framework to enable U.S. companies to compete in the world data economy, we are enthusiastic that baseline privacy law is closer to becoming a reality for consumers.