The Obama administration is preparing a stepped-up approach to policing Internet privacy that calls for new laws and the creation of a new position to oversee the effort, people familiar with the situation tell the Wall Street Journal.
The strategy is expected to be unveiled in a report being issued by the U.S. Commerce Department in coming weeks, these people said, though the report isn't yet final and could change.
This and other initiatives would mark a turning point in Internet policy. Recent administrations typically steered away from Internet regulations out of concern for stifling innovation. But the increasingly central role of personal information in the Internet economy helped spark government action, according to people familiar with the situation.
Privacy issues are bubbling up on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he welcomed the administration's privacy initiative.
"Better late than never," Barton said. "I am glad more and more folks, in the government and otherwise, are beginning to realize that there is a war against privacy."
Yet the administration faces significant obstacles to enacting its privacy agenda. While the Republicans who now control the House of Representatives generally support privacy, they are unlikely to support any bill to expand the enforcement powers of the Federal Trade Commission, GOP congressional aides say. Privacy advocates will be reluctant to back legislation that lacks enforcement and is perceived as toothless.