While few expect Congress to pass broad privacy legislation, privacy will still get a lot of attention in 2012, starting with the release in the coming weeks of two highly anticipated federal reports providing guidance on protecting consumer privacy online.
The Commerce Department report could come out days before the European Commission releases its proposed changes to its privacy directive, which could affect U.S. companies that do business in Europe or operate websites used by Europeans. The commission is expected to call for making the directive a regulation to be imposed on its member states.
In addition, the commission is expected to call for increasing fines, requiring express consent from consumers before collecting information about them, and expanding the scope of the privacy law to include websites targeting EU citizens and not just those companies with European operations. “It’s evident it’s taking a rather heavy-handed strict regulatory approach,” said Omer Tene, a senior fellow with the Future of Privacy Forum and a visiting fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.