House will tackle Internet privacy legislation, congressman says

House will tackle Internet privacy legislation, congressman says

Congress is in a race against state governments to enact legislation protecting online privacy, said Rep. William J. Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

'We intend to do it before California and other states act on this,' Tauzin said yesterday at the Global Tech Summit sponsored in Washington by the Business Software Alliance. The congressman warned that a patchwork of state laws regulating how information is gathered and used on the Internet could interfere with interstate commerce.

'We ought to make sure that federal webmasters are subjected to a much stricter standard' than webmasters on commercial sites, he said.

Tauzin said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, has drafted a bill that he hopes to file in January and bring to the House floor by March.

Tauzin said he preferred self-regulation and that major online players have done a good job of meeting Federal Trade Commission guidelines for privacy. But 'we discovered the federal government doesn't do as well as the commercial side in respecting privacy,' he said. 'Almost every agency flunked the FTC test, including the FTC.'

He said the legislation should include a safe harbor exempting companies that are effectively self-regulating and that the government must be held to a higher standard because much of the information it collects is not voluntary.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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