Hollings Privacy Bill Amended, Delayed

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A privacy bill that was expected to pass the Senate Commerce Committee was amended to include a provision for offline data and then delayed yesterday when it was blocked by the Senate's top Republican, according to reports.


The bill, the Online Personal Privacy Act of 2002, was introduced April 18 by the committee's chairman, Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-SC.


As introduced the bill would require companies to obtain opt-in consent from consumers for sensitive data and provide opt-out options for other data. The sensitive information includes financial data, medical records, Social Security numbers, religious affiliation and sexual orientation. Non-sensitive information would include transactional data from online purchases.


Another provision would allow consumers to sue companies if sensitive data were misused.


Prior to the blockage of the vote by minority leader Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS, the committee approved changes to the bill. The major change was adding a requirement that the Federal Trade Commission draft privacy rules for offline data collection by businesses. Another change reduced the maximum amount consumers could win in lawsuits for privacy violations from $5,000 to $500.


It is unclear when the committee will vote on the bill.


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