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Getting Online Privacy Policy Right

Getting Online Privacy Policy Right

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Peter Swire explores the need for a Privacy Policy Office at the Department of Commerce and finds reasons to support its creation.
Peter Swire explores the need for a Privacy Policy Office at the Department of Commerce and finds reasons to support its creation.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Jan 28, 2011
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1Center or American Progress | Why the Federal Government Should Have a Privacy Policy Oice
Why the Federal GovernmentShould Have a Privacy Policy Office
Peter Swire January 2011
Tese commens suppor he creaion o a Privacy Policy Oce in heexecuive branch, as called or in he Deparmen o Commerce green paper,“Commercial Daa Privacy and Innovaion in he Inerne Economy: A DynamicPolicy Framework.”Te chie criicism o his proposal is ha he oce would weaken privacy proec-ion. In one vivid urn o phrase , Je Cheser o he Cener or Digial Democracy said: “Having he Commerce Deparmen play a role in proecing privacy willenable he daa collecion oxes o run he consumer privacy henhouse.” Mr.Cheser and oher privacy advocaes essenially argue ha having he CommerceDeparmen play a role in privacy policy will dilue he eeciveness o he Federalrade Commission’s privacy eors.I disagree. My commens suppor hree conclusions:
Te oce would provide imporan benes o complemen wha he FCdoes. As par o he execuive branch, he oce would make disincive conri- buions o building privacy policy ino he developmen and implemenaion o U.S. governmen posiions or domesic and inernaional policy. Relaedly, heoce would be able o draw on he perspecives and experise o oher ederalagencies ar more eecively han can an independen agency such as he FC.
Te likely oucome wih an oce would be beter proecion o privacy han would occur wihou he oce.
Te likely oucome wih an oce would be beter achievemen o oher policy goals han would occur wihou he oce.
2Center or American Progress | Why the Federal Government Should Have a Privacy Policy Oice
Tese commens also consider wheher he oce should be placed in heDeparmen o Commerce, as he greenpaper recommends, or else in heExecuive Oce o he Presiden, which housed he oce o he chie counseloror privacy under Presiden Clinon. I conclude ha he imporan hing is oensure an ongoing privacy policy capabiliy in he execuive branch, while agood case can be made or housing i eiher in he Commerce Deparmen or heExecuive Oce o he Presiden.
Background on privacy and the department of commerce
Much as is occurring his year, he FC and Commerce Deparmens playedcomplemenary roles in he mid- o lae-1990s in developing privacy policy. Ahe Federal rade Commission, privacy iniiaives were pushed by ChairmanRober Piosky, Commissioners Mozelle Tompson and Chrisine Varney, andDirecor o he Consumer Proecion Bureau Jodie Bernsein (along wih herdedicaed sa, led by David Medine). A he Commerce Deparmen, Barbara Wellbery and Becky Burr played imporan roles, as did Adminisraor o heNaional elecommunicaions and Inormaion Adminisraion Larry Irving,General Counsel Andy Pincus, Undersecreary or he Inernaional rade Adminisraion David Aaron, and Secreary William Daley. Te hisory o heFC’s involvemen in his period has been well discussedin work by Kenneh BambergerandDeirdre Mulligan. Te vial work in ha period o he Deparmen o Commerce has been less ully discussed.
In 1997, Secreary Daley personally hosed a major conerence andrepor on“Privacy and Sel-Regulaion in he Inormaion Age.Ta conerenceengaged many o he persons, and developed many o he conceps, ha shapedU.S. privacy policy in he ollowing years.
Te deparmen hen led he complex and ongoing negoiaions wih he European Union abou how o reconcilehe E.U. Daa Proecion Direcive and U.S. law, culminaing in he Sae Harboragreemen in 2000, which is sill in eec oday. For he Sae Harbor and innumerous oher privacy issues, he deparmen, including is Inernaional rade Adminisraion, brough experise o bear on opics such as e-commerce, inerna-ional rade, and how privacy s ino broader business pracices.In he summer o 1998, Vice Presiden Al Gore announced ha a privacy policy posiion would be creaed in he U.S. Oce o Managemen and Budge. Asdiscussed urher below, I enered he role o chie counselor or privacy in early 
3Center or American Progress | Why the Federal Government Should Have a Privacy Policy Oice
1999, and worked closely wih he Deparmen o Commerce, he FC, andoher agencies unil early 2001. Under Presiden George W. Bush, he CommerceDeparmen adminisered he Sae Harbor program, bu did no play as visible apolicy role on privacy.Under Presiden Obama, Secreary Gary Locke creaed he Inerne Policy ask Force , which has published he green paper ha is he subjec o hese commens,eniled “Commercial Daa Privacy and Innovaion in he Inerne Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework.” Te green paper saes:
Recommendation #4: Using existing resources, the Commerce Department should establish a Privacy Policy Oce (PPO) to serve as a center o commer-cial data privacy policy expertise. Te proposed PPO would have the authorityto convene multi-stakeholder discussions o commercial data privacy imple-mentation models, best practices, codes o conduct, and other areas that wouldbenet fom bringing stakeholders together; and it would work in concert withthe Executive Oce o the President as the Administration’s lead on interna-tional outreach or commercial data privacy policy. Te PPO would be a peer o other Administration oces and components that have data privacy responsi-bilities; but, because the PPO would ocus solely on commercial data privacy, its unctions would not overlap with existing Administration oces. Nor would the PPO have any enorcement authority.
For reasons se orh below, I generally suppor his recommendaion, bu wihgreaer emphasis on cerain uncions he oce can play, especially as an ongoingsource o insiuional experise on privacy and in order o aciliae he iner-agency clearance o privacy-relaed issues.
A complementary role for a privacy office in Commerce: Theimportance of clearance and international privacy issues
o assess he poenial useulness o he PPO, i helps o rs undersand someimporan roles played by he Federal rade Commission in privacy proecion:
1. Enforcement.
Te FC has he power o bring enorcemen acions agains“unair and decepive rade pracices,” and has negoiaed consen decrees onprivacy wih boh large and small companies.

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