December 17, 2010 – In a report on Internet privacy and protection, the U.S. Department of Commerce urges businesses to work together on data security and wants the Obama administration to review laws on the ways personal information is stored in the cloud.

Citing the need for oversight to protect people and businesses, and spur innovation in the massive IT and computing industry, the federal agency made five primary suggestions in its 88-page report:

Build upon existing Fair Information Practice Principles for user privacy “Bill of Rights” concerning personal information online.
Develop privacy codes of conduct for businesses and users with oversight by a new division within the Commerce Department that would work with the Executive Branch.
Encourage interoperability among businesses to better compete globally.
Harmonize business rules and notification of commercial data security breaches with possible enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.
Presidential review of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act with attention to cloud computing and location-based services, something echoed previously by computing industry leaders.

Specific to business interoperability and data security sharing, the report recommends that companies meet government-approved certification, particularly with information that crosses national boundaries. Standardization through certification could bring eventual cost savings to both companies and consumers through “increased efficiencies in data management,” the report stated.

In addition, the establishment of a national data security breach law would work toward greater nationwide compliance than the existing “maze” of state laws, according to the report. There are outstanding issues in sectors like health care, where current laws are strict, and in the determination of a threshold for notification that would do more than scare of confuse consumers.

In the report, the department stated that exponential growth in the Web and IT have pushed the need for oversight and privacy protection. Globally, online transactions stand around $10 trillion annually, according to department estimates. From 1998 to 2008, U.S. IT jobs grew by 26 percent, or four times the overall national employment rate, with projections of an additional 22 percent IT job growth by 2018, the department stated.

The department is also accepting additional public comment and will soon publish questions based on the report in the Federal Register for discussion. View the PDF of the report here.


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