Lawmakers, industry leaders and officials from the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce generally expressed support last week for Federal legislation on Internet privacy and data security during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who introduced S. 913, the “Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011,” which would allow individuals to prevent the collection of their personal information online, emphasized the need for Congressional action to address online tracking and data security breaches.  Senator Rockefeller has also introduced S. 1207, the “Data Security and Breach Notification Act,” which would require companies to adopt basic security protocols to protect sensitive consumer data and would require companies to notify affected consumers after a data security breach. 

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Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, also made the case for legislation that would allow consumers to know how companies are collecting and using their personal information, and prevent and mitigate damage from data security breaches. Senator Kerry has introduced S. 799, the “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act,” which would  impose security requirements on companies that collect personal information and give consumers control over how their personal information is collected and used.

Cameron Kerry, formerly of Mintz Levin and now General Counsel of the Commerce Department, noted that while the Obama Administration generally supports consumer data privacy legislation that includes a privacy bill of rights and industry codes of conduct that would be enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission, Federal legislation should not create overly burdensome regulatory requirements for businesses.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) was skeptical about the need for comprehensive privacy legislation, but noted the need for Federal legislation to establish a national data breach reporting standard.  The hearing also featured Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill and Federal Communications Commission General Counsel Austin Schlick, along with representatives from industry and consumer groups.

Further, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced the "Location Privacy Protection Act" (S. 1223), which focuses specifically on the collection of geolocation data by certain entities through mobile devices.  The bill would prohibit entities that offer or provide services to certain types of mobile devices from collecting and disclosing a consumer's geolocation information without the consumer's express consent. 

Should be a hot summer for privacy watchers.