CLBR #309 – Cam Kerry on the Need for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

Cam Kerry on the
Need for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights


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Cameron Kerry, former General Counsel and Acting Secretary of the Department of Commerce during the Obama Administration and now at the Brookings Institute, returns to CLBR to discuss his call for enacting a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Kerry first joined CLBR in 2014 to discuss the ICANN transition and in 2016 to discuss the US-EU conflict over privacy.

In a recent Brookings study, Why protecting privacy is a losing game today—and how to change the game, Kerry argues:

  • More and more data about each of us is being generated faster and faster from more and more devices, and we can’t keep up. It’s a losing game both for individuals and for our legal system.
  • This information Big Bang is doubling the volume of digital information in the world every two years. The data explosion that has put privacy and security in the spotlight will accelerate. Most recent proposals for privacy legislation aim at slices of the issues this explosion presents.
  • Maybe informed consent was practical two decades ago, but it is a fantasy today. In a constant stream of online interactions, especially on the small screens that now account for the majority of usage, it is unrealistic to read through privacy policies. And people simply don’t.
  • Businesses are able by and large to set the terms on which they collect and share this data. This is not a “market resolution” that works.
  • We need an American answer—a more common law approach adaptable to changes in technology—to enable data-driven knowledge and innovation while laying out guardrails to protect privacy.


Cameron Kerry

Brookings Institute

Website /

Cameron Kerry joined Governance Studies and the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings as the first Ann R. and Andrew H. Tisch Distinguished Visiting Fellow in December 2013. In addition to his Brookings affiliation, Cameron Kerry is Senior Counsel at Sidley Austin, LLP in Boston and Washington, DC, and a Visiting Scholar the MIT Media Lab. His practice at Sidley Austin involves privacy, security, and international trade issues. Kerry served as General Counsel and Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce, where he was a leader on a wide of range of issues laying a new foundation for U.S. economic growth in a global marketplace. He continues to speak and write on these issues, particularly privacy and data security, intellectual property, and international trade.

While Acting Secretary, Cameron Kerry served as chief executive of this Cabinet agency and its 43,000 employees around the world, as well as an adviser to the President.  His tenure marked the first time in U.S. history two siblings have served in the President’s Cabinet at the same time.

As General Counsel, he was the principal legal adviser to the several Secretaries of Commerce and Commerce agency heads, and oversaw the work of more than 400 lawyers across these agencies.  He was a leader in the Obama Administration’s successful effort to pass the America Invents Act, the most significant overhaul of the patent system in more 150 years.  As co-chair of the National Science & Technology Council Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy, he spearheaded development of the White House blueprint on consumer privacy, Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World.   He then led the Administration’s implementation of the blueprint, drafting privacy legislation and engaging on privacy issues with international partners, including the European Union.  He helped establish and lead the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force, which brings together agencies with expertise in the 21st Century digital economy.

He also played a significant role on intellectual property policy and litigation, cybersecurity, international bribery, trade relations and rule of law development in China, the Gulf Oil spill litigation, and many other challenges facing a large, diverse federal agency.  He travelled to the People’s Republic of China on numerous occasions to co-lead the Transparency Dialogue with China as well as the U.S./ China Legal Exchange and exchanges on anti-corruption.

Before his appointment to the Obama Administration in 2009, Cameron Kerry practiced law at the Mintz Levin firm in Boston and Washington.  His practice covered a range of complex commercial litigation and regulation of telecommunications.  He tried cases involving significant environmental and scientific evidence issues and taught telecommunications law as an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School.

Prior to joining Mintz Levin, he was an associate at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C. and a law clerk to Senior Circuit Judge Elbert P. Tuttle of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  During the 2004 presidential campaign, Cameron Kerry was a close adviser and national surrogate for Democratic nominee John Kerry. He has been deeply involved in electoral politics throughout his adult life. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College Law School (1978), where he was winner of the school’s moot court competition and a law review editor. and a cum laude graduate of Harvard College (1972).

Cameron Kerry also has been actively engaged in politics and community service throughout his adult life.  In 2004-04, he was a senior adviser and national surrogate in the U.S. Presidential campaign, traveling to 29 States and Israel.  He has served on the boards of non-profits involved in civic engagement and sports.

Cam also has a famous brother . . .

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