Chair Named for House Committee Guiding Privacy Bill

freduptonMichigan Rep. Fred Upton has been chosen to head the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee, home to a privacy bill introduced earlier this year. The race for the chairmanship was an especially contentious one, as four candidates including the current top Republican on the committee – Rep. Joe Barton of Texas – vied for the seat. Upton sits on the commerce subcommittee where the privacy bill was introduced.

The committee is home not only to pending legislation covering privacy issues related to online advertising, but to lawmakers with a keen interest in online behavioral advertising and related online privacy issues such as do-not-track. A bill introduced in a subcommittee in July by Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois could be altered to include language mandating the Federal Trade Commission’s call for a do-not-track mechanism.

Upton was named yesterday by the House Republican Steering Committee, beating out Barton, the committee’s current ranking member, as well as Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois and Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns. Stearns is the co-sponsor of a draft privacy bill floated this year but never formally introduced.

The lobbying arm of the online ad industry’s most prominent trade group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, donated $1,500 to Upton’s re-election campaign in September.

Rush’s privacy legislation was introduced in the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. That subcommittee was chaired by Upton from 2001 to 2006 and he currently is a member.

Upton’s chairmanship is still subject to a vote by all House Republicans. His candidacy was fought by conservative small government group Freedom Works, which built to oppose his chairmanship candidacy, and generate petition signups.

While much legislator interest in online advertising and data privacy has originated in the commerce committee, it is unclear how much attention the committee will pay privacy issues during the next congressional session. But with mainstream media coverage of a proposed do-not-track mechanism and Facebook privacy fueling heightened consumer interest around online privacy, the Rush bill could still have momentum.

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