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Posted in Consumer Privacy

Capitol Hill Focus on Privacy Reveals Rifts; Upcoming Program in House Announced

The headline in The Hill reads"Senators Clash Over Internet Privacy" and describes Wednesday’s hearing on consumer privacy before the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee.  On one side — Senators Rockefeller (D-WVA) and Kerry (D-MA), strong proponents of baseline privacy legislation, and on the other was Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who questions whether there is the need at all for legislation and who expressed concern over compliance costs threatening innovation.  Caught in the cross-fire were FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz and Department of Commerce General Counsel Cam Kerry, who were discussing the details of proposed legislation and enforceable self-regulatory regimes.  Committee Chair Rockefeller promised to move privacy legislation this year, and Senators Kerry and McCain, authors of a comprehensive bill, have offered to compromise, but most observers agree that passage of a privacy law is unlikely this year.

A timely program on pending proposals will be presented by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee in the Rayburn House Office building on Monday, May 14, moderated by Hogan Lovells privacy leader Chris Wolf.

Some highlights from Wednesday’s hearing:

I am afraid … that the need to monetize consumers’ data will win out over privacy concerns

 Self-regulation is inherently one-sided 

 Consumers’ rights always seem to lose out to the industry’s needs.

— Senator Jay Rockefeller

Neither this committee … nor the Commerce Department fully understand what consumers want or need with regard to privacy

It’s important that companies have maximum flexibility to work with their customers. Companies are already currently competing on privacy. This is a sign of a healthy, functioning and competitive market — something we should be encouraging.

             — Senator Pat Toomey

Only companies that profit from assembling personal information have yet to conclude there is a need for comprehensive privacy legislation.

— Senator John Kerry