By Gautham Nagesh
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) pressed the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to release their final reports on consumer privacy protections.
"Consumers are confused and concerned about how their information is collected and distributed, and firms collecting information on people are not bound to any common set of practices and are making them up as they go along," the pair wrote.
"Congress and the public could use the guidance of the expert agencies in the form of final reports to help make sense of current practices and how to best protect innovation without sacrificing people's privacy."
Both agencies released draft reports last December that identified gaps in current privacy protections, but neither has issued its final report. Kerry and McCain introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights in April, which would spell out exactly how firms could use consumers' personal information.
In their letter the senators note the draft reports both concluded that industry self-regulation had failed to provide adequate privacy protections for consumers, suggesting the need for legislation.
"And both reports presented what the expert staff at your agencies considered would constitute a better framework for addressing privacy issues in commerce. We leaned heavily on those frameworks to construct S.799, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights," the letter states.
The letter points to multiple privacy hearings in Congress and changes in the marketplace as rallying points for those calling for privacy legislation. They emphasize that both agencies' expertise would be welcome as Congress and stakeholders decide how to protect innovation without sacrificing consumer privacy.