Last Tuesday, Senators McCain and Kerry announced the introduction of their Internet privacy "Bill of Rights." Three days before the announcement, I appeared on the Blueprint for Wealth radio show to discuss the need for an omnibus federal Internet privacy statute. Obviously, I didn't discuss the Kerry-McCain bill, since it hadn't yet been announced, but I did discuss some of the very problems which that bill seeks to address. Among other things, I pointed out that:
- Our existing Internet privacy protections are insufficient. The FTC is not empowered or able to shoulder the entire burden of protecting our Internet privacy. Recent anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that the present system isn't working.
- Congress should follow the lead of other nations in establishing an omnibus Internet privacy law that balances the needs of Internet users against those of the Internet businesses that drive the e-commerce economy. In formulating a federal Internet privacy statute, Congress should be guided by the FTC's adoption of the core principles of fair information practices: notice, choice, access, security, and enforcement. In a free market economy, a website user who is fully and accurately notified of what personally identifying information a website collects, stores, and discloses; how, and for what purpose, such information is used; how such information is stored and protected; and to whom such information is going to be disclosed can make an educated choice about what, if any, information to reveal to the website. Our federal statute should incorporate aspects found in state Internet privacy statutes enacted by California and Connecticut.
In a couple of months, the William Mitchell Law Review is publishing an article I wrote with Charity Price and Leigh Murray entitled, "Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: Leveraging Private Enforcement to Improve Internet Privacy." The article discusses, in much more detail than would be possible in a blog post or 15-minute radio interview, the efforts by the FTC and private parties to enforce Internet privacy rights, the protections afforded by federal and state law, the protections afforded to UK and EU citizens, and the form an omnibus federal statute should take.