How did we end up in a world where private companies want more regulation and the government wants less? If I understand this New York Times article correctly, that’s what’s happening:
The Senate Commerce Committee began Wednesday to look at how online companies collect and use data about Internet users for advertising, and was told by several big Internet companies that it needs to pass a new law to enforce privacy standards for a range of online and offline activites.
Privacy lawyers working for both Google and Yahoo both endorsed the idea of some kind of legislation. So did — predictably — Leslie Harris, the chief executive of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an activist group.
“Google supports the passage of a comprehensive privacy law that would establish a uniform framework for privacy and procedures to punish bad actors,” said Jane Horvath, a senior privacy counsel for Google. Mike Hintze, an associate general counsel of Microsoft, said much the same thing.
On the other side was the Federal Trade Commission. Lydia Parnes, the director of the commission’s bureau of consumer protection, said legislation is not needed and she defended the agency’s proposal late last year to bolster the industry’s self-regulation of advertising practices. That proposal suggests that one or more self-regulatory groups could define standards for disclosure of advertising practices, the consent users must give and the steps that companies that collect personal data must use to protect it from theft and accidental disclosure.
Seems that the big players–Google, Microsoft, etc–want Congress to establish some basic privacy statutes so the entire industry can play along. But the Bureau of Consumer Protection doesn’t seem to be all that interested in, uh, consumer protection.