Kerry Will Push for Online Privacy Legislation

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Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) will pursue an online privacy bill in the Senate.

That announcement came in concert with an online privacy hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee. Kerry is chairman of the committee's Communications Subcommittee.

He said the goal went beyond targeted advertising: "As a matter of law, we need new baseline standards for privacy protection that ensure people's identity is treated with the respect it deserves. Take the single example of a cancer survivor who uses a social network to connect with other cancer survivors and share her story. That story is not meant for her employer or everyone she emails, or marketers of medical products promising herbal cures."

At the hearing, Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) echoed that need for baseline protections for folks who were neither computer whizzes or lawyers who regularly read the kind of small print in which pirvacy policies are frequently disclosed, or he would argue obscured, online.

"Our counterparts in the House have introduced legislation and I intend to work with Senator[Mark] Pryor [D-Ark.] and others to do the same on this side with the goal of passing legislation early in the next Congress." Reps. Rick Boucher (D-W. Va.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) have introduced a draft and bill, respectively, that would mandate an opt-in/opt out process on the collection, use and sharing of online information.

During his hearing testimony, Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz said that he thought if industry stepped up with clear, concise, ways to inform and give Web users choice about when and how their information was used, they could avoid a legislative response in the next Congress.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) put in a plug for her Senate version of an anti-stalking bill (H.R. 5662, the Simplifying the Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act) that related to online privacy. Klobuchar is introducing a bill to toughen anti-stalking laws, prompted in part by the posting of peepcam video of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who joined Klobuchar for a press conference on the bill earlier in the day.

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