WASHINGTON — Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) today introduced the “Privacy Commission Act,” legislation which would establish a 17-member commission to conduct a comprehensive study of issues relating to personal privacy. The Privacy Commission would make recommendations to Congress and the President on the protection of individual privacy and on the correct balance to be achieved between protecting privacy and allowing appropriate uses of information.
“In these times of rapidly changing technology, people are uncertain and fearful about who has access to their personal information and how that information is being used,” Chairman Thompson said. “The Privacy Commission would examine the entire spectrum of privacy issues and make recommendations to Congress as we consider how to map out privacy protections for the future.”
“Experts estimate that the average American is ‘profiled’ in up to 150 commercial electronic databases. Generally the uses of this data are benign, even beneficial. Occasionally, however, personal information is obtained surreptitiously, and even peddled to third parties for profit or other uses,” Senator Kohl said. “Our hope with introducing the Privacy Commission Act is to gain a better informed understanding of the numerous privacy issues facing our high-tech culture — and to hear what Congress should do about it.”
The “Privacy Commission Act” was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Jim Moran (D-VA) and passed the House Government Reform Committee by voice vote on June 29, 2000. Senators Kohl and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) also introduced similar legislation in the Senate last year.
The Thompson-Kohl bill differs from the Hutchinson-Moran bill in several ways. For instance, the deadline for the Commission to issue its final report was reduced from 18 months from the final nominations of Commission members to December 31, 2001, and the Commission would be required to establish a website to facilitate public participation and public comment. Cosponsors of the Thompson-Kohl bill include Senators Torricelli, Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), George Voinovich (R-OH), William Roth (R-DE), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
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