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Senate Commerce Raises Issue Of Privacy Jurisdiction

Could there be something of a turf tussle brewing over
the issue of online privacy?

The leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee have written to
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy saying the newly created Privacy,Technology & Law Subcommittee there appears to exceed judiciary's scope and overlap with legislative matters
"squarely within the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation

That is according to a copy of the letter obtained by
B&C/Multi, the tone of which was more exploratory and  than

Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.)
and ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) pointed out that their own
committee has bee focused on consumer privacy issues as well as data security.
In fact, protecting kids online privacy has been one of Rockefeller's signature
issues. He pointed out that the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
(COPPA) originated in the Commerce Committee. He also pointed out that the
Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection authority is "fully under
the jurisdiction of Commerce," where oversight hearings are held. The FTC
is one of the government's lead privacy protection mechanisms and is currently
recommending or considering proposed changes to online privacy protections,
including COPPA.

They said they were "puzzled" by the online
description of the subcommittee's jurisdiction,
which is described as:

"(1) Oversight of laws and policies governing the
collection, protection, use and dissemination of commercial information by the
private sector, including online behavioral advertising, privacy within social
networking websites and other online privacy issues; (2) Enforcement and
implementation of commercial information privacy laws and policies; (3) Use of
technology by the private sector to protect privacy, enhance transparency and
encourage innovation; (4) Privacy standards for the collection, retention, use
and dissemination of personally identifiable commercial information; and (5)
Privacy implications of new or emerging technologies."

Commerce has a hearing coming up later this month where it
will vet proposals from both the FTC and Commerce Department, as well as a
potential overarching privacy bill in discussion.

"We will carefully follow the work of the Judiciary
Committee and its new subcommittee to make sure that our committees are working
to enhance consumer protections," they said.

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Al Franken (D-Minn,),
Democratic members also include Chuck Schumer of New York,
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island,
and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut.
Republican members are Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (ranking member), Orrin Hatch from
Utah, and Lindsey Graham of South

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.