WASHINGTON, D.C. - The federal governments chief online privacy cop announced on Thursday, Oct. 4, that he believes legislation buttressing consumer privacy is not necessary.
"The challenges for new legislation are daunting," Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris said during a speech in Cleveland, Ohio. "It is too soon to conclude that we can fashion workable legislation."
At the same time, however, Muris announced that the commission was investing heavily in resources to deal with the enforcement of existing privacy laws.
Privacy advocates, who had long awaited Muris position on legislation, applauded his commitment to spend more money and time going after privacy scofflaws, but denounced his decision to back away from legislation. Robert Pitofsky, the FTC chairman until earlier this year, urged Congress to pass consumer privacy legislation.
"I dont think he can duck the challenges created by the online marketplace," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the subject of consumer online privacy captivated select lawmakers and lobbyists, and had enough momentum behind it to spark numerous hearings and bills. Most partisans believed Congress would vote - probably next year - on some sort of consumer privacy legislation.
As the federal governments likely sovereign over most consumer privacy policies, the FTC chairmans policy position on the issue figures into the political calculus of the debate, though it in no way does so decisively. Pitofsky, for example, wanted legislation, but Congress wasnt able to deliver it during his tenure as chairman.
Muris is a free-market advocate. His reluctance to impose new laws on businesses does not come as a great surprise to onlookers.
Muris did, however, say that he will be tough on those who break existing laws.
Among the points Muris stressed during his speech:
- Creating a national do-not-call list, which would be a list comprised of consumers who do not want telemarketers to call them
- Beefing up enforcement against unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam
- Investing more resources in the fight against identity theft
- Increasing enforcement and outreach on childrens online privacy