Internet privacy in next Congress
By Cecilia Kang
A key Republican lawmaker indicated Wednesday that Internet privacy could be a legislative priority in the next Congress, as a growing number of data breaches draw increased attention from federal regulators.
Rep. Joe L. Barton (Tex.), ranking GOP member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, signaled the legislative push in a statement about his correspondence with Facebook executives on privacy issues.
"I want the Internet economy to prosper, but it can't unless the people's right to privacy means more than a right to hear excuses after the damage is done," Barton said.
Such an effort on privacy would mark an exception to the otherwise hands-off approach that the incoming GOP majority is widely expected to take toward issues affecting the high-tech and telecom industries, including regulation of broadband networks.
Action on many tech-related matters has been cast into doubt after Tuesday's defeat of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who for years has been a force behind tech-policy legislation, particularly on privacy.
But lawmakers remain under increased pressure to move in the face of rising consumer concern about the safety of personal information online. Government regulators in the United States and abroad, meanwhile, also are preparing to take a more aggressive role in enforcing privacy rules.
The Federal Trade Commission has investigated several recent cases of mishandled data and is expected to release a report within weeks recommending a framework for new privacy laws and guidance for Web firms.
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