Congress has once again decided to consider legislation aimed at addressing privacy concerns related to commercial uses of personal information. On July 22, Ira Rubinstein, an adjunct professor at NYU Law and a senior fellow at the Information Law Institute, was among seven witnesses who appeared before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the two bills: H.R. 5777, known as the Best Practices Act, and the Boucher-Stearns Discussion Draft.

The other witnesses included privacy advocates and business representatives as well as David Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. Last fall, Rubinstein co-organized the Workshop on Federal Privacy Legislation at the Law School, at which Vladeck delivered the keynote address.

Rubinstein presented three recommendations to the committee: first, he called on Congress to enact comprehensive privacy legislation incorporating the full range of Fair Information Practices; second, he suggested that the legislation should include a “broad-based safe harbor program based on a co-regulatory approach.” This approach provides “flexibility to industry in shaping self-regulatory guidelines in exchange for superior performance, while ensuring that the FTC retains general oversight authority to approve and enforce such guidelines”; and last, he proposed that any safe harbor program should include “strong performance standards based on data governance, advanced privacy methodologies, and other best practices” and should also require public consultation as part of the safe harbor approval process.

Watch video of the entire hearing.

Posted July 28, 2010