Sen. Thune: Privacy Legislation is Coming

Committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) made it clear Wednesday (Sept. 26) that it was not a case of whether there was going to be a law to protect consumer privacy, but "what shape it would take."

That came at a hearing with edge providers and ISPs on what they are currently doing to protect that privacy and their take on what the shape of any legislation should be.

Sen. Thune said he thought there was bipartisan support for comprehensive legislation. Witness Len Cali of AT&T agreed, saying it would have to apply across the board, to ISPs and edge providers alike. Google chief privacy officer Keith Enright also said the company supported a legislative effort, conceding Google had "made mistakes," but had learned from them and adapted, including developing a new framework based on transparency, control, portability and security.

Of course, the devil will be in the details, like self-regulatory spurs vs. bright-line rules, opt-in versus opt out, and other thorny issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats, industry and activist. 

The chairman also address concerns of privacy activist groups that they were not represented on then panel, which comprises representatives of AT&T, Charter, Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Google.

Related: Amazon Slams California Privacy Law

Thune said that angst was misplaced, that there would be no rush to legislate without hearing from all sides, and that there would be a hearing early next month that would include privacy activists. 

Thune also said Wednesday's session was not supposed to be a "gotcha" hearing.

There has been some criticism that Republicans have been marching edge providers to the Hill in response to allegations of conservative bias and to help raise money for the midterms by spotlighting a hot-button issue.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.