Senate-House Conferees Adopt Thompson-Inslee Privacy Amendment

WASHINGTON ? Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced today that Congressional conferees adopted an amendment to ensure that Congress is made aware of potential privacy violations on Federal agency Internet sites. The Thompson-Inslee amendment would require the Inspectors General of each agency to report to Congress on how the agency collects and reviews personal information on its web site.

“Our citizens have a right to know what information is being collected about them on Federal web sites,” Thompson said. “This legislation would ensure that we know about agencies? data collection practices so that we in Congress can make sure that privacy rights of citizens are not being violated.”

“The American people do not want their privacy compromised by the government, by private companies or by any unholy alliance of both,” Inslee said. “This move signals to the American people that Congress is beginning to listen to their concerns on the issue.”

In June, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was found to have contracted with an Internet ad firm to use “cookies,” information gathering devices, to track users on the ONDCP web site. In response to a request from Senator Thompson, the General Accounting Office (GAO) recently began an audit of Federal agencies? use of cookies. Several government web sites continue to use cookies despite a revised guidance from the White House directing agencies not to use the technology unless there is a “compelling need” to gather the data on the site and “clear and conspicuous notice” that cookies are being used.

The Thompson-Inslee amendment, which gives agency Inspectors General 60 days to submit their reports, would expand on the GAO investigation by requiring all Inspectors General to report on each agency?s information-gathering practices, including data interception systems such as the FBI?s “Carnivore.” The amendment was adopted in the conference report funding the Legislative Branch, Treasury, Postal and General Government Services. A similar amendment, sponsored by Rep. Inslee, passed the House by voice vote on July 21, 2000.


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