No Consensus on Details for Privacy Legislation After Senate Hearing

With data breaches happening almost every day, there's a lot of interest but little consensus on how new legislation can help protect consumer privacy online.

Lawmakers are trying to balance business interests with consumer needs as they grapple with online security and privacy.

Federal officials appeared to be in broad agreement over the need for data breach laws at the data security and privacy hearing held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 29. The disagreements appeared to be over reconciling consumer wants with companies who claim "do not track" proposals and online privacy laws would hurt business.

There is "broad support" for a national standard on data security, according to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn), a ranking member of the subcommittee. He said Congress was likely to pass some kind of a data security bill "in the near future," but there wasn't a broad consensus on general privacy issues.

"I'm sure no one on the committee wants to break the Internet," Toomey said, arguing that new privacy regulations could hurt Internet businesses and reduce the number of free online services consumers get.

There are currently three privacy and security bills making the rounds in the Senate, including Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass) and John McCain's (R-Ariz) Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) and Sen. Mark Pryor's (D-Ark) Data Security and Breach Notification Act, and Rockefeller's Do-Not-Track Online Act.

The bills were introduced during amid reports of high-profile data breaches that have dominated the news in the first half of 2011.

If nothing else, perhaps the frequency, audacity and harmfulness of these attacks will help encourage Congress to enact new legislation to make the Internet a safer place, Sony Network Entertainment president Tim Schaaff said at the hearing.

This article was originally published on 07-01-2011
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