Two of the leading congressional voices on privacy issues today announced plans for the first in a series of hearings in the coming months to examine how information is collected, protected, and utilized in an increasingly interconnected online ecosystem. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, chairman of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee, is leading the effort in collaboration with Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. The two panels will kick off the congressional review of privacy issues with a joint hearing entitled "Internet Privacy: The Views of the FTC, the FCC, and NTIA."
"I welcome the opportunity to work with Chairman Bono Mack on electronic privacy. I am interested in learning whether consumers are receiving adequate information and protection regarding treatment of their personal information, but I also want to make sure we do not curtail the ability of America's job creators to innovate and invest," said Walden. "As we explore whether legislation is needed, I am certain of one thing: Today's regulatory system is neither competitively nor technologically neutral. I look forward to learning how the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration historically have addressed electronic privacy and what they plan to do going forward."
The first hearing, scheduled for Thursday, July 14, will feature testimony from federal regulators called to report on existing federal laws and practices to protect online consumer privacy. The hearing will provide an overview of the existing privacy framework in federal law and help identify key issues for discussion moving forward. Topics for this and future hearings include consumer knowledge of online data collection and opportunities to control what information is obtained and maintained; aggregation and anonymization of individually identifiable information; the role of data collection to improve the online user experience and provide free online content; and the ability to mitigate unwanted marketing and other targeted outreach or rejection of services based on an individual's online profile.
The Energy and Commerce Committee began its look this year at online privacy and consumer protection issues with a review of data security in light of recent high-profile breaches that put millions of consumers' personal information at risk. Rep. Bono Mack is currently developing data security legislation to implement necessary safeguards against data breach and standards for public notification in case a breach occurs.