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Privacy Report Could Be Released This week

The Commerce Department appears close to finally releasing its long-awaited final report outlining the Obama administration's position on consumer privacy online.

The report is likely to be released as soon as Thursday. While the report apparently has been completed for weeks, the agency has been trying to line up some big-name support to help release it, possibly Vice President Joe Biden.

The report is not expected to include any major differences from the draft report the department released in December 2010. It is, however, likely to include the administration's previous calls for Congress to pass legislation calling for a "privacy bill of rights" that would establish basic privacy protections for consumers.

While Commerce's draft privacy report did not call for broad privacy legislation, the administration came out in support of congressional action during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last March.

In its final report, Commerce may provide more details on its calls for industry sectors to create their own codes of conduct on the commercial use of personal information. Commerce's draft privacy report said companies working with privacy advocates and others should help craft voluntary codes of conduct, which would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

While both industry representatives and some privacy advocates say it is unlikely that Congress will pass broad privacy legislation this year, the report may spur the private sector to do more on its own to protect consumer privacy.

"The [White House] privacy report sets the stage for important advances to be made to protect consumers online," Jeff Chester with the Center for Digital Democracy said. "This new initiative will generate greater public awareness on the need to protect privacy. It will also help support the development of new safeguards for consumers."

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