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The GAO report was requested by the House Energy and Commerce Committee two years ago and have scheduled a hearing for February 26. During this hearing, the committee will discuss GAO’s findings and the possibility of drafting the US’ first federal-level internet privacy law.
GAO officials said, “Recent developments regarding Internet privacy suggest that this is an appropriate time for Congress to consider comprehensive Internet privacy legislation.” The GAO officials recommended that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should be put in charge of overseeing internet privacy enforcement.
GAO investigators cited the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal as an example of why a federal-level internet privacy law is important. According to ZDNet, some of the examples include:
- The dangers to user privacy due to the lack of regulation and oversight in the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT) sector where devices collect massive amounts of information without users’ knowledge.
- Automakers collecting data from smart cars owners.
- The lack of federal oversight over companies that collect and resell user information.
- The lack of protections for mobile users against secret data collection practices.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), the official who requested the report in 2017, said, “This detailed GAO report makes clear that now is the time for comprehensive congressional action on privacy that should include ensuring any agency that oversees consumer privacy has the tools to protect consumers. These recommendations and findings will be helpful as we look to develop privacy legislation in the coming months.”
For its report, the GAO committee also analyzed the FTC’s previous 101 user internet privacy investigations. It also took into consideration feedback from the private sector, academia, advocacy groups, other government agencies, and nine former FTC and FCC top-ranking officials, including seven former commissioners.
To know more about this news in detail, read the complete GAO report.