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Posted at 4:34 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Senate Judiciary names Franken head of new privacy, tech subcommittee

By Cecilia Kang

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Monday was named chairman of a new Judiciary subcommittee for Privacy, Technology and the Law. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) will serve as ranking member, according to a release by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Franken, an outspoken former comedian and author, has been an ardent supporter of tech policies such as net neutrality and warned of too much power being consolidated through Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Franken's appointment, saying the Judiciary Committee needed for focus more on how new technologies such as social networking sites have "unleashed new questions about how to protect Americans’ privacy in the digital age.”

Franken said in a release that an unprecedented amount of personal information is in the hands of large companies that are "unknown and unaccountable to the American public."

"As chairman of this new subcommittee, I will try to make sure that we can reap the rewards of new technology while also protecting Americans’ right to privacy,” Franken said.

The Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law will oversee laws and policies governing the collection, protection, use and dissemination of commercial information by the private sector, including online behavioral advertising, privacy within social networking Web sites and other online privacy issues.

It will enforce privacy laws and policies and encourage privacy standards for how companies collect, retain and share private information that can pinpoint a user.

Other Democratic Senators on the subcommittee will include Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Republican Senators on the subcommittee will include Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

By Cecilia Kang  | February 14, 2011; 4:34 PM ET
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Next: The Circuit: Clinton speaks on internet freedom; net neutrality hearings; Chrome lets you block content farms


A most excellent choice. Someone who actually understands the technology to be regulated as more than "pipes."

Posted by: lpe397 | February 14, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Good news. There is much more propsect for government added value on privacy issues then there is on netork neutrality.

Posted by: dnjake | February 14, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Too bad it is too late for this Sub to to anything about the Comcast + NBC = consumer disaster. The FCC was beyond toothless in their review and approval.

Posted by: Zontag | February 14, 2011 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I haven't been an Al Franken fan since his entry in politics but I do think this appointment does make good sense. Sen. Leahy is noted for using the talents of his Senate members and I do wish Sen. Franken every success. I hope his knowledge of this subject will benefit all Americans.

Posted by: npsilver | February 14, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

This tells you everything you need to know about the Democratic Party. The only things missing are the clown shoes and rubber ball nose.

Posted by: robtay12003 | February 14, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

They actually have a reasonable set of people working on this from both sides. I'm glad to see it. I actually know something about the announced members track records & interest with this stuff, and they aren't a pile of flakes.

Posted by: Nymous | February 14, 2011 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Franken's perspective on privacy is limited to that of consumer protection, a limitation that does not bode well for the effectiveness of the new subcommittee. I am confident that his Senate website's lenthy privacy disclaimer outlining what his website does not do and his jump onto last year's beat-up-on-Facebook bandwagon for the search engine's admittedly misdirected info-sharing policies were appreciated by consumers everywhere, including this writer. However, this does even remotely qualify Senator Franken to direct the work of an important new subcommittee intended to bring US privacy policies and practices into the digital age. Privacy policy, information sharing and access, identity management and trusted services are much broader than consumer protection issues to also include US economic strength competitiveness,delivery of health-care services, e-government and, yes, national security. The new Senate Justice subcommittee has an unprecedented opportunity to bring US privacy policies into the digital age. It will be a complex undertaking, requiring practical and expert input to succeed. Most importantly, it will require an expert and diplomatic hand at the wheel. This is not the time or the place for "on-the-job-training." Unfortunately, this appointment sends just that message to Americans.

Posted by: sbCIPP | February 15, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Franken is widely known for his Emmy-class work on television, but he has also deep credentials as a critic of politics-as-usual. In his books "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them", and in "The Truth", Franken offers well-reasoned and pointed commentary never heard on Sunday Morning talk shows. Franken is an outstanding advocate of fairness for consumers and the cause of individual rights, and an excellent choice by Sen. Leahy.

Posted by: alphaa10 | February 15, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Contrary to sbCIPP, the Senate Justice Judiciary subcommittee for Privacy, Technology and the Law is not limited by a new chairman who understands widespread concerns about personal privacy and protections. Instead, that committee suffers the limitations of older hands who should know better, but do not, and by "diplomatic" but thoroughly patronized proxies for corporate interests which do not speak for America-- or its democracy.

Posted by: alphaa10 | February 16, 2011 12:00 AM | Report abuse

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