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Public Statements

Issue Position: Privacy

Issue Position

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Ed Markey is one of the most vigorous champions of consumer privacy protection in Congress. Here are some of his most recent efforts:

Ed Markey founded the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus to educate the Congress on the many ways in which commercial interests are using personally-identifiable data without the permission of the consumer.

During consideration of the Financial Services Reform Act, Ed Markey successfully amended the bill in committee to give consumers the right to decide whether their personal financial data could be shared with third parties and others. This forced the whole issue of privacy into the bill, resulting in significant but inadequate privacy protection against some narrow abuses.

Ed introduced the Personal Data Offshoring Protection Act to prohibit companies from transferring personal data offshore without providing privacy protections to the consumers to whom the information belongs. The bill also includes for penalties for privacy violations involving offshoring of personal data (see H.R.4366, introduced 5/13/2004). As a result of Ed's work, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adopted many of the privacy safeguards he proposed, requiring tax preparers who intend to send their customers' tax return overseas for processing to first get customers'permission.

Ed is the principal Democratic sponsor of Wireless 411 Privacy Act, legislation to protect the privacy of cellphone users. The cellphone industry is setting up a directory which could lead to demands that consumers pay for the privilege of keeping their numbers unlisted. Rep. Markey believes this is upside down, and that we should require that no user's number be listed without explicit permission.

Ed Markey has introduced the Stop Taking Our Health Privacy (STOHP) Act to safeguard patients' medical records from misuse. The STOHP Act would strengthen the control that patients have over their medical files by giving patients the right to say "No" to requests for their personal medical information. Ed's bill also would restore consumers' right to block unwanted, unsolicited communications for health-related offers.

As the federal government encourages the development of Health Information Technology (HIT) and the creation of electronic health networks that can store and transmit Americans' medical records online, Ed has been a leading advocate of building in strong privacy protections for patients' personal information at the outset, before the network is established. In 2005, Ed attached an amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that called for patients to be notified if any of their medical information in databases maintained by HHS were lost, stolen or misused. The amendment passed the House and Senate but was removed from the final version of the bill after opposition from the White House.

In 2006, Ed again worked to ensure that patients'medical records in electronic databases are protected from prying eyes. On the House Floor, Ed offered a provision that would have given patients' the right to block their medical records from being included in electronic health information networks, provided patients the ability to sue companies or individuals who misused their electronic health records, and required that patients be notified if their electronic health records were lost, stolen or misused. Although the provision was ultimately defeated, Ed plans to continue his efforts to strengthen the standards for protecting Americans' medical records.

After the theft of personal records at data broker ChoicePoint, Ed took a leading role in efforts to craft legislation to regulate companies that collect and sell personal information about Americans, such as Social Security numbers, income, mortgage amounts and other personally-identifiable data. Ed introduced the Social Security Number Protection Act to prohibit the purchase and sale of citizens' Social Security numbers in interstate commerce in violation of rules to be promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He continues to work on this important privacy matter.

Ed successfully amended the House bill addressing Satellite Home Viewer Act issues (H.R. 4501) to extend to satellite consumers the same privacy protections on collection and disclosure of personal television viewing information; privacy rights which have protected cable television consumers since 1984.

Ed's amendment to the CAN-SPAM Act (P.L. 108-187) protects against spamming cellphone and other wireless users by requiring the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules prohibiting spam text messages to wireless phones and other wireless devices without the prior, express consent of subscribers. The Markey wireless spam provision was successfully offered and added to the bill during the House-Senate conference (12/8/03).

Ed has introduced legislation to extend provisions of current law governing consumer privacy which today apply to cable operators and make them applicable to vendors of multichannel video services, such as Tivo, Replay TV, and satellite providers (see H.R.3511, introduced 12/4/2003).


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