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New Czar Alert? Internet II Just Around the Corner!

November 12, 2010

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is planning to take steps in the coming weeks to step up efforts to police internet privacy, including new laws and possibly a new executive branch “czar”-type position to oversee the effort.

The specific policy strategy is expected to be unveiled in an upcoming report from the Commerce Department, but the White House is already taking some steps to implement the new policy, despite past administrations steering clear from new regulation out of concern it might stifle innovation. On Capitol Hill, the effort seems to be getting some Republican support:

Privacy issues are bubbling up on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he welcomed the administration’s privacy initiative.

“Better late than never,” Mr. Barton said. “I am glad more and more folks, in the government and otherwise, are beginning to realize that there is a war against privacy.”

Yet the administration faces significant obstacles to enacting its privacy agenda. While the Republicans who now control the House of Representatives generally support privacy, they are unlikely to support any bill to expand the enforcement powers of the Federal Trade Commission, GOP congressional aides say. Privacy advocates will be reluctant to back legislation that lacks enforcement and is perceived as toothless.

Currently, there is no comprehensive internet privacy law in the United States and cases involving privacy disputes are most often handled by the Federal Trade Commission.

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