FRAMINGHAM (07/28/2000) - Data privacy and e-commerce issues will likely top the priority list of newly named Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
Confirmed earlier in July by a unanimous vote of the Senate, Mineta will oversee a department of 40,000 people worldwide and a budget of $5 billion. He succeeds William Daley, who resigned to take over Al Gore's presidential campaign.
Mineta represented Silicon Valley in the House for 21 years and he is a former vice president of special business initiatives at Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.
Mineta will also lead the implementation of the much-debated safe harbor agreement that governs the exchange of data between European and U.S. companies.
Approved by the European Union in June but sent back to the negotiating table by the Europeans on a subsequent vote in July, the data privacy rules have been in process for nearly two years. But now they're ready for implementation, according to Washington sources.
"It's my understanding that despite the additional changes that the European Parliament wanted, the European Commission is going forward with the agreement as negotiated," said David Aaron, an attorney at Washington-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, who helped negotiate the safe harbor deal while serving as undersecretary of commerce.
"We're at the stage now where we're looking at implementing the agreement," he added.
Aaron said domestic data-privacy issues will also likely dominate Mineta's agenda.
"The previous secretary made the issue of domestic data privacy a high priority, and I think it will continue to be so," he said. Noting the incoming secretary's previous work with Lockheed, much of it centered in Silicon Valley, Aaron added that Mineta is "very much aware of the importance of data privacy and e-commerce issues on the whole."
In a statement released following his confirmation, Mineta pledged that "mainstreaming the New Economy and working toward digital inclusion for all Americans" would be among his key agenda items.
The U.S. Department of Commerce said that throughout his career, Mineta has had extensive experience in technology and trade issues. For example, he played a key role in settling semiconductor disputes with Japan and helped secure research and development tax credits for businesses.