Support for Privacy Legislation Survives Change of Power in Congress; Privacy Legislation May Advance
Last week, Politico ran an interesting piece suggesting that federal privacy legislation may see the light of day in 2011. Democratic supporters of the legislation show no signs of slowing down. In the Senate, John Kerry (D-Mass.) is working on privacy legislation based on a bill he proposed last year. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is planning to hold public hearings on Internet privacy starting in February. Of course the key to the success of federal privacy legislation lies in the House, and there Republicans have voiced support for a privacy bill as well. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said that the privacy bill introduced last year by former representative Rick Boucher (D-Va.) could be revised and reintroduced with Republican support (Rep. Stearns co-sponsored the Boucher bill). This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. According to Politico, Rep. Bono Mack informed her colleagues on the subcommittee that she remains committed to addressing privacy issues.
Inevitably, Republicans and Democrats are bound to disagree on many aspects of the legislation. For example, while Democrats have sought to expand the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy enforcement jurisdiction, Republicans are keen on keeping the regulators’ power in check. Both parties, however, will have to balance privacy protections against the ability of businesses that leverage personal information to grow and create jobs. Republican and Democratic legislators, as well as the administration, have made repeated pledges to their constituents that saving and creating jobs is their top priority.
Bipartisanship on privacy and information security issues in not unprecedented. Last year, for example, Republicans and Democrats joined in amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act to drastically limit the scope of the FTC’s Identity Theft Red Flags Rule. Whether the parties will in fact cooperate this year is an open question. Republican members of the House have made it clear that 2011 is likely to be a bruising legislative season.
Check back with us often as we track legal developments in the privacy and information security arena.