House lawmakers propose privacy commission to monitor use on Net

House lawmakers propose privacy commission to monitor use on Net

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Spurred by concerns regarding the Internet, Reps. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and James P. Moran (D-Va.) have introduced a bill to establish a privacy protection commission.

No federal commission has investigated privacy issues since the advent of the information revolution, the lawmakers said.

'Americans want to know that they can get on the Internet without strangers downloading personal information about them'and in today's society, all these issues are interwoven,' Hutchinson said.

The Privacy Commission Act would create a 17-member panel to look into privacy issues. The Commission for the Comprehensive Study of Privacy Protection would examine, for example, access to and use of medical and financial records, personal information transmitted via the Internet, and the use of Social Security numbers.

The commission also would review pending congressional legislation and privacy protection efforts by federal, state and local governments. The bill, HR 4049, would require the commission to hold 20 hearings nationwide and then submit a report of findings and recommendations at the end of its 18-month term.

'The Internet has flourished in large part because of the absence of undue government regulations and oversight,' Moran said. 'That is why it is vital that any legislation or regulation with respect to privacy only occur after a thoughtful, deliberate and balanced assessment of threats we face now, and what we need to do better.'

Designed to direct

The bill would direct the president, the Senate majority leader and the House speaker to appoint four members each to the commission. The Senate and House minority leaders would name two each. The president and congressional leaders would collectively select a chairman.

The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology held a hearing on the bill last month. The subcommittee's members heard testimony from industry and privacy organizations about how personal data is used on the Net.

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) plans to hold a markup hearing on HR 4049 in mid-May.

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