The preeminent privacy issue facing the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Senate Commerce Committee, Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Department of Commerce during the 112th Congress will be defining the proper role of the federal government in setting and regulating consumer privacy standards for all businesses operating in the United States. At the forefront of this issue is whether Congress and Obama Administration departments and agencies can agree upon a general framework and legislative language to regulate the collection, use and disclosure of consumer data by businesses, whether they are operating exclusively online, exclusively offline or in both environments. “Every business that sells to consumers likely collects some data on them that they use to enhance their future product and service offerings in order to grow their revenue and expand their customer base. Over the past two years, Congress has been considering
legislation that would establish new rules to regulate this important customer relationship, making consumer privacy legislation in the next Congress one of the key issues with broad applicability to businesses, and one issue to which executives will want to pay close attention,” observed former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
In addition to consumer privacy legislation, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are expected to continue their review of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) and the possibility of enacting ECPA reform legislation to address cloud computing and other technological developments. At the outset of the 112th Congress, however, the attention of the Senate and House members on the relevant committees with judiciary and commerce jurisdiction may first focus on the reintroduction and passage of data security legislation if the Senate fails to act on such a bill during the upcoming lame duck session. These three principal topics in the privacy issue area are discussed in more detail in the subsections below, and reference is also provided there to health care privacy matters covered elsewhere in this advisory.
Click here to view a PDF of the complete advisory on the Alston & Bird web site.