Blog Post

Get Ready For A Flurry Of New Online-Privacy Bills In Congress

Legislators in the House and the Senate are now practically falling over each other to introduce new online-privacy legislation. Congressional aides told Capitol Hill newsletter The Hill that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) will both introduce privacy bills next week, and at least one Republican will also be introducing a bill.

Speier, who represents a tech-heavy district just south of San Francisco, is proposing a bill that will include specific “Do Not Track” rules, a concept that Federal Trade Commission endorsed when it released its privacy report in December. Rush’s bill won’t have Do Not Track provisions, and will instead offer a “safe harbor” to marketers who participate in privacy rules. The Hill doesn’t say exactly what Rush’s safe-harbor rule entails, but it probably means that marketers or analytics companies that abide by certain privacy-protection rules would be rewarded with immunity from privacy lawsuits, which have proliferated in the last year.

Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns has said he’ll introduce a new version of a bill that he proposed last year with a Democratic politician, Rick Boucher, who didn’t win re-election. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who co-chairs the Congressional Privacy Caucus, has promised that he’ll “put internet privacy in the crosshairs” this year.

All in all, it looks like we’re headed for some pretty vigorous debate on a topic that was practically invisible just six months ago. It also looks like-unlike the other big internet debate, net neutrality-there be room for some actual bipartisanship, which would be a rare thing in the political environment of 2011.