May 22, 2000
STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER SHEILA F. ANTHONY
In Privacy Online: Fair Information Practices in the
Electronic Marketplace: A Report to Congress
I am pleased the Commission is recommending that federal legislation is necessary to protect consumer privacy. Survey after survey demonstrates that concerns about privacy have been growing among the public and that these concerns have focused on the power of technologies to collect, store, search, and transmit large amounts of personally identifiable information. I not only share those concerns, I note that threats to privacy are increasing with the merging of the offline and online worlds. In short, things may be getting worse for American consumers on the privacy front.
Two critical facts demonstrate that a legislative structure, such as the one proposed in the report, is necessary. First, while web sites should be offering privacy protections, not just toothless policies, 80 percent of the web sites surveyed failed to even state that they were providing those protections. Second, for self-regulation to be credible, there must be an enforcement mechanism that gives consumers confidence that web sites do what they say with consumers' personal data. Yet, 92 percent of the web sites surveyed did not have a privacy seal, a linchpin of the self-regulatory effort. Our legislative recommendation would reward those sites that have offered real privacy protections and require all others to meet basic privacy standards. It would also give consumers the assurance that a legal structure is in place, in addition to seal programs, to provide confidence that stated privacy policies will be honored.