THE US COMMERCE DEPARTMENT says it needs a privacy watchdog to develop voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct for data companies and advertisers that track people on the Internet.
According to a report by the department's Internet Policy Task Force, the great unwashed are getting concerned about the ability that companies have to collect data on Internet users' personal web surfing habits and flog it to advertisers.
In the Privacy Green Paper, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke pointed out that consumer distrust of the Internet could undermine people's use of technology.
He added that self regulation without stronger enforcement is not enough.
The report calls for a privacy bill of rights to give Internet users more information about what data companies collect. It said that this is an urgent matter, as there are going to be many privacy issues related to moving data into the 'cloud'.
However, the privacy group Consumer Watchdog has blasted the plan saying that the department might not have enough of a consumer focus.
But Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University told Reuters that it is a good idea, as it would give the government a visible leader on Internet privacy.
Google also liked the Commerce Department's approach, and looked forward to working with the administration.
Meanwhile the FCC, which has published its own views on policing privacy, said that the Department of Commerce's Green Paper is a welcome addition to the ongoing dialogue about protecting consumers' privacy. µ
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