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Public Statements

Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WATT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 6671. Last year, I came to the floor to oppose the predecessor bill to this legislation, which we in the House passed and sent to the Senate. But today, I rise to support the amendments to the Video Privacy Protection Act contained in the bill because of important amendments to the bill that have been made in the Senate.

I said when we debated the bill before, and I say now, that while I support innovation on the Web, I do not support it at the expense of consumer privacy. I believe the Senate amendments make for a strong bill, with more robust consumer protections, and respond, in many respects, to the concerns I raised about the prior bill.

The Video Privacy Protection Act was passed in reaction to the unauthorized release of Judge Robert Bork's rental history during his contentious confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court and stands today as the gold standard for privacy protection.

The amendments made by this bill would allow a video service provider to obtain universal, ongoing electronic consent from consumers to share their viewing history across social media like Facebook. The consumer would have to affirmatively opt in, and the service must provide a clear and conspicuous opportunity to withdraw the consent to share video viewing information at any time. Finally, advance consent may be valid for no longer than 2 years.

Mr. Speaker, I'm satisfied that the amendments made in the Senate, before which I testified in opposition to the original bill, have adequately addressed the privacy-related concerns I expressed.

Opt-in consent is widely regarded by privacy advocates as a vigorous protection for consumers. The requirement that the consumer must revisit the decision to share his video history reinforces the protections provided in the initial consent.

And finally, the bill now allows what I suggested during the Judiciary Committee markup in the House, that the consumer be provided the option to give consent on a video-by-video basis, or in advance for all views until that consent is withdrawn, or until the expiration of 24 months.

Because of these important changes, I support the chairman in his effort to assist online companies to initiate creative options on behalf of their subscribers. While these are welcome improvements that allow me to support this bill, I remain concerned that the bill fails to provide needed updates to the Video Privacy Protection Act, in particular, and fails to consider implications for the ongoing national debate on privacy laws governing digital privacy.

I continue to believe that the underlying Video Privacy Protection Act must be updated to address destruction of records in the online environment. Also, the damages provision should be updated to ensure that consumers are adequately compensated when harmed and that online companies are not unfairly penalized because of the reach of their media.

Finally, I firmly believe that the provision in the Video Privacy Protection Act that requires a warrant for law enforcement to obtain consumer records must be preserved and that future debates on electronic consumer privacy reforms must not undercut those protections.

I understand that the incoming chair of the Judiciary, my good friend, Mr. Goodlatte, agrees with most of these observations and will work with me to ensure that the Judiciary Committee, next year, tries to address some of these concerns.

So, Madam Speaker, my concerns are not so much about what's in this bill as much as they are concerns about what is not in the bill. So I'm agreeing not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

I, therefore, ask my colleagues to join me in supporting the bill, but I also ask them to join me, in the next term of Congress, to protect consumer privacy and to update the outdated provisions of the Video Privacy Protection Act.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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