The White House won’t wait for Congress to act to protect the privacy of online consumers, a top White House technology official said on Monday.
While recent efforts in both the Senate and House have been encouraging, the White House is moving ahead with its own version of a consumer privacy bill of rights, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy Daniel Weitzner said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event.
In declaring that the White House would “shortly” be introducing such a bill of rights on its own, Weitzner repeated the administration’s talking point that its work would not be held up by a recalcitrant Congress.
Still, Weitzner said officials in the executive branch see their plan as part of a “larger conversation” about what rules are needed to protect privacy online, rather than a substitute for congressional action. He also noted that some of the administration’s proposals are included in some plans being circulated on Capitol Hill.
In April, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., unveiled their own Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights bill, which aims to protect privacy by regulating how companies can collect and use personal information.
That bill has received mixed reviews. Many corporations supported the proposals, but consumer groups voiced concern that the bill wouldn’t require companies to offer a “do-not-track” option to allow consumers to control whether their browsing history is used by advertisers and other websites.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has also introduced online privacy legislation that includes a do-not-track measure. The Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees have historically jostled for jurisdiction over privacy issues, adding a complicating factor to the congressional process.
The United States has benefited from privacy regulations that are specifically designed for different sectors of the economy, rather than one overarching law like some in Europe, Weitzner said.
But online consumer privacy is one area where existing rules fall short, Weitzner said.
The White House plan would include “voluntary but enforceable” codes of conduct and principles that companies can either adopt or propose alternatives to that can be approved by government regulators, Weitzner said. He did not elaborate on what consequences companies would face for not adopting the “voluntary” principles.