White House Turns Up Heat on Consumer Internet Privacy Legislation

Recent revelations of widespread spying and eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies has triggered a heightened sense of concern on the part of privacy-sensitive European nations. These allies in turn have brought pressure on the Obama Administration to create legislative safeguards against undue privacy intrusion, a subject about which EU members are far more concerned than is the U.S.

As a result, the White House is turning up the pressure on Congress to initiate and pass legislation that would guarantee more stringent safeguards for American citizens against government-sanctioned invasions of privacy using electronic means including the Internet.

EU member nations and the EU as an organization have generally adopted sweeping pro-consumer laws, rules  and regulations controlling the use governments and businesses can make of information obtained over the Internet.

While little official information is yet available about the legislation the Administration is urging Congress to adopt, there are indications the new law will define privacy limits and call for a meeting among  businesses and consumer interest groups to hammer out the details of what will be allowed and what will be banned under the proposed new law. It is likely the Federal Trade Commission would be the agency to have enforcement responsibility.

In recent years, Congress has been reluctant to delve into an area it sees as complex and nuanced, preferring to rely on Internet companies’ cooperation with one another and with their customers to deal with the issue. That coupled with the significant increase in concern raised by the recent government spy leak cases suggests it could be a slow road to anything resembling final and impactful legislative action.