Senate Commerce Joins Privacy Blitz

Privacy issues continue to dominate inside the Beltway, with the Senate Commerce Committee scheduling a hearing, "Policy Principles for a Federal Data Privacy Framework in the United States,” for Feb. 27 at 10 a.m., a day after the House Consumer Protection Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on "Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Era of Big Data."

Related: Witnesses Named for House Privacy Hearing

“In an age of rapid innovation in technology, consumers need transparency in how their data is collected and used,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). “It is this committee’s responsibility and obligation to develop a federal privacy standard to protect consumers without stifling innovation, investment, or competition."

Witnesses for the Senate hearing are: Jon Leibowitz, co-chairman, 21st Century Privacy Coalition and former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; Michael Beckerman, president and CEO, Internet Association; Brian Dodge, COO, Retail Industry Leaders Association; Victoria Espinel, CEO, BSA – The Software Alliance; Dr. Woodrow Hartzog, professor, Northeastern University School of Law and Khoury College of Computer Sciences; and Randall Rothenberg, CEO, Interactive Advertising Bureau.

There is bipartisan support for privacy legislation, but no clear path to what authority to give which agency over which portions of the internet ecosystem and what data needs protecting versus what the overprotection of data could do to the targeted ad-driven, free-content internet model.

Related: FCC Privacy Rule Foes Say Time for Hill Reset

Americans for Prosperity backs the feds stepping in, but only if they step lightly and watch where they are planting that government issue footwear.

“Congress has an opportunity to protect consumer privacy while ensuring Americans continue leading the way in developing cutting-edge technology," said AFP tech policy analyst Billy Easley. "The unintended consequences of bad privacy legislation would detract from the real value that useful data creates for the public. Privacy legislation should focus on addressing practices that harm consumers rather than simply restricting the collection of data. Americans deserve to have their privacy protected and Congress must find a balanced approach that does not threaten the freedom to innovate.”

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.