Yesterday, two Subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade and Communications and Technology) held a joint hearing entitled “Internet Privacy: The Views of the FTC, the FCC, and NTIA” that featured testimony from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez, and NTIA Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling. Topics discussed included the need for privacy and data security legislation, the development of baseline governing principles, and current efforts by each agency to engage stakeholders on these issues.
Legislators from both Subcommittees recognized the economic and social value of the Internet throughout the hearing and emphasized that nearly every aspect of our daily lives now has an online component. Despite its “incalculable value,” the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Cal.), characterized the Internet as a “work in progress” and expressed concerns shared by many Members of the two Subcommittees over the collection, use, sharing and protection of online data and the need to improve consumer education. The witnesses generally shared these concerns, and although their testimony did not reflect a shift in policy at the FTC, FCC, or NTIA, the dialogue between the legislators and regulators did shed light on the current state of thinking about privacy regulation at the federal level.