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NEW U.S. CONGRESS TO MAKE PRIVACY TOP ISSUE

Source: Center for Social & Legal Research and Privacy & American Business

Posted on January 11, 2001

      Privacy is shaping up to be a top issue of the 107th Congress, which convened for the first time last week. But unlike the last Congress, insiders predict that privacy legislation would likely be passed this session. One reason is that privacy is a nonpartisan issue. Partisan legislation, such as taxes and education, is more likely to be stalled because Congress is sharply divided.

      "Privacy legislation is inevitable," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton said that a federal law protecting personal information on Web sites was required because it "can't be done on a state-by-state basis."

      A spokeswoman for Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) also said he would support legislation to impose privacy guidelines on Web sites and require that they disclose personal information only if Web users opt-in.

      However, not everyone in Washington may see privacy legislation as the answer. Attorney general-designate John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has been praised for his commitment to a "market driven" approach to regulation, according to Bob Cohen, Senior Vice President at the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).

      "He has demonstrated leadership and understanding that some of these issues play out over time and it is important to leave it to markets and not try to come up with prescriptive regulatory approaches," Cohen said of Ashcroft.

      But congressmen are hopeful the 107th session would be productive despite the 50/50 split in the Senate and slim Republican margin in the House. Expressing optimism, Rep. Barton said that despite the divided membership "maybe we can become the little Congress that could."




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