*Privacy Commission Bill Dies in House

A bill proposing to set aside $5 million for a federally appointed privacy commission died this week on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 250-146, 14 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for the bill to be approved without amendment.

The bill, the Privacy Commission Act, H.R. 4049, was introduced in March by Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-AR, and James P. Moran, D-VA. It was designed to fund a 17-member commission for a year and a half of service to study privacy as it relates not only to the Internet but also to medical, financial and government records to study privacy protection.

While the bill boasted bipartisan support and won the praise of consumer advocacy groups, it did not attract enough votes to carry it through the next legislative step.

Privacy has been a political football in Congress. The House and Senate have introduced a slew of Internet privacy bills, many of which have gone nowhere.

Hutchinson, however, praised the 250-146 majority vote in favor of the comprehensive privacy study commission.

“I am pleased that a majority of the House voted to protect Americans' privacy,” Hutchinson said. “While I am disappointed that we did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority, today's vote continues the momentum for a privacy study commission.”

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, held a hearing yesterday to review legislation dealing with improving Internet privacy, including S. 2928, the Consumer Internet Privacy Enhancement Act.

The bill, which is still in committee, would make it unlawful for a commercial Web site operator to collect personally identifiable information online unless the operator provides both notice to the user and an opportunity for the user to limit its use for marketing purposes.

Panelists included: Scott Cooper, manager of technology policy at Hewlett-Packard Co.; George Vrandenburg III, senior vice president of global and strategic policy at America Online; Simson Garfinkel, author of “Database Nation”; Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; Jerry Berman, executive director at the Center for Democracy and Technology; and Paul Rubin, professor of economics at Emory University.

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