Rep. Bobby Rush introduced an online privacy bill to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce yesterday, as expected. Industry players and privacy advocates still are combing through the new bill, which is largely similar to a draft proposal distributed by Rep. Rick Boucher in May.
At first pass, Mike Zaneis, Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Public Policy VP, saw the H.R. 5777 as a step in the right direction. In particular, he said a safe harbor provision in the Rush bill for companies participating in an industry self-regulatory program – such as one the IAB and a coalition of advertising trade groups are developing – is “a huge concession to the industry’s work towards building an [online behavioral advertising] self regulatory program.”
Rush’s bill follows a draft proposed by Rep. Rick Boucher that’s been floating around Washington, D.C. for the past two months.
The bill adds another offshoot trail to the winding path of comprehensive Federal online privacy legislation development. And it could be seen as the beginning of a turf battle. The Boucher proposal was distributed among interested parties in early May for comment, and is not formal legislation.
Rush’s bill could be construed as a shot across the bow to Boucher, who is head of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Some believe Boucher overstepped his boundaries by submitting his proposal without input from Rush, who is chairman of another House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee (on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection). Insiders say Rush (pictured above) may think his subcommittee, because it deals with consumer protection, is the more appropriate point of origin for an online privacy bill than Boucher. Rush also sits on the Boucher-led Internet Subcommittee.
The next few weeks could be far more active for Web privacy advocates, advertising trade associations, and others involved in the online privacy discussion than many anticipated for this summer. Rush’s subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing on his bill this Thursday, according to ClickZ News sources.
The subcommittee website, however, does not list a hearing on the topic of online privacy this week. Rush’s press staff did not respond to calls from ClickZ News. In addition, sources say the Senate Commerce Committee will hold its own online privacy-related hearing on July 27, though that is not listed on the committee’s website. Congress is scheduled to break for recess between August 9 and September 12, 2010.
There also remains room for Republicans to counteract with their own online privacy legislation. While the Boucher draft was co-released by Rep. Cliff Stearns – a Republican and ranking member of the House Communications, Technology, and Internet Subcommittee – others in his party could decide to join the online privacy bill game.
UPDATE: The original story, published July 19, was updated on July 20 to reflect Rush’s introduction of the bill.
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