As we predicted, more AGs are creating dedicated units in their offices to concentrate on privacy issues, signaling AG’s continuing expansion into data privacy protection. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler selected International Data Privacy Day, January 28, to announce that he has established an Internet Privacy Unit dedicated to protecting online privacy. AG Gansler’s announcement of a new privacy unit follows Indiana, Connecticut, and most recently, California’s establishment of task forces in their offices dedicated to consumer privacy protection.
Assistant AG Steve Ruckman will lead Maryland’s interdivisional Internet Privacy Unit, which will monitor companies to assure that they are compliant with state and federal consumer protection laws. The Unit will focus specifically on Internet privacy, and will emphasize child safety on the Internet by monitoring compliance with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which, in most cases, restricts companies from collecting personal information of children under 13 years old. The Unit also will “examine weaknesses in online privacy policies” and, like California’s unit, will “work alongside major industry stakeholders and privacy advocates to provide outreach and education to businesses and consumers to broaden awareness about privacy rights. . . .” The Unit also will bring enforcement actions when appropriate.
The creation of the new Unit coincides with AG Gansler’s tenure as President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and his 2012-2013 Presidential Initiative, “Data Privacy in the Digital Age.” NAAG will host a summit April 14-16, 2013 in National Harbor, MD, to explore legal and policy issues related to data privacy.
With the attention of each AG turned to data privacy issues, as a result of the Presidential Initiative, among other things, we likely will see further action on data privacy in 2013. Maryland’s announcement is likely the first of many this year, and major policy, legislation, and enforcement initiatives will not be far behind. To learn more about how state AGs addressed data privacy last year, please visit our blog.