The congressional push to regulate how, when and why online advertisers collect, monitor and store your data intensified Wednesday with the introduction of a second piece of legislation in as many days and the beginnings of a turf battle among Republicans in the House.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., followed through on his pledge to lead efforts in the House on online privacy with the introduction of the “Consumer Privacy Protection Act 2011” just one day after Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced their own privacy bill in the Senate.
The Stearns bill, cosponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, focuses on providing consumers with notice of what information is being collected and how and leaves it largely to the companies themselves to self-regulate for compliance.
Like the Kerry/McCain bill, the Stearns/Matheson measure would put the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in charge of enforcing the privacy rules as violations of deceptive or unfair acts.
It also does not include the creation of a ‘Do Not Track’ list similar to the ‘Do Not Call’ telemarketing registry that consumer advocates have called for and the White House and FTC have endorsed.
Unlike the Senate bill, however, the Stearns bill does not include an opt-in requirement when it comes to sensitive personal information like health or financial records.
The absence in Kerry’s bill of an FTC and White House endorsed ‘do not track’ mechanism drew heat from consumer advocates and privacy groups, a point to which Sen. Kerry argued that including the measure may have dissuaded the big tech firms that expressed their support on Tuesday, including HP, AT&T, Intel, eBay and Microsoft.
The Kerry measure drew support in the House on Tuesday from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) for one, who introduced privacy legislation of his own earlier this year, also without a ‘Do Not Track’ feature.
Just as the bipartisan push among lawmakers in both chambers shows that Congress is likely to pass some form of new privacy laws this year, a turf war is bubbling in the House that could complicate the process.
Politico points out in the midst of bill introductions this week was a telling speech from Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), chairwoman of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee, that seemed as much a staking of ground as a policy address.
“Each Member of the House is entitled to legislatively express their opinions about particular issues and online privacy is no different. I fully support this notion. However, in the 112th Congress, with the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade under my leadership, I will first listen to the needs of consumers and American entrepreneurs before acting. And after listening, IF my colleagues and I determine there is a need to legislate in this important part of our technology sector, I will lead that effort in the House of Representatives,” Mack told the audience at the AdWeb 3.0 conference in San Francisco.
The turf war among House Republicans has its roots in a “dear colleague” circulated in early February by Rep. Bono Mack pledging to focus on the online privacy issue. She followed that just a few weeks later with a press release indicating that her panel “has the lead on privacy matters.”
Rep. Stearns responded to Bono Mack’s statement by noting, “When I was Chairman of that subcommittee, I conducted the most extensive series of hearings on privacy.”
He went on to note he was currently working on privacy legislation, as he had done in the last Congress and in previous years as a member of the Trade subcommittee and now chairman of the Oversight subcommittee.
In introducing his measure on Wednesday, Stearns notably said he looks “forward to working with Chairwoman Bono Mack on enacting online privacy legislation to protect consumers.”