As we previously discussed, the House Energy & Commerce Committee announced last month that it would be undertaking a comprehensive review of electronic privacy concerns.  That process will kick off on July 14, 2011 with a joint hearing by the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee and the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. 

Regulators from the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration have been invited to report on existing federal laws and practices to protect online consumer privacy.  FCC, FTC, and Commerce Department representatives also testified last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, which is similarly analyzing privacy and data security issues. 

According to the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s press release, next Thursday’s hearing is the first in a series of hearings that will look at issues such as

  • Consumer knowledge of online data collection and opportunities to control what information is obtained and maintained;
  • Aggregation and anonymization of individually identifiable information;
  • the role of data collection to improve the online user experience and provide free online content; and
  • The ability to mitigate unwanted marketing and other targeted outreach or rejection of services based on an individual’s online profile.

Separately, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), vice chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee, has launched a series of privacy roundtables designed to gather input on how the tech industry and government can work together to promote business growth while protecting consumers.  The first roundtable, cohosted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, was held last Wednesday in New York.  After the meeting, Rep. Blackburn noted the need to guard against the “impulse to over-regulate and hamper” the “extraordinary marketplace” that has been created by the tech sector and the Internet.  Two more roundtables are reportedly planned for later this summer, in Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area.