The US Commerce Committee met last Wednesday to discuss bills on privacy issues. Obama's administration and industry representatives, as well as federal regulators working in the sphere of consumer protection and telecommunications issues, also took part in the meeting.
Should the proposed legislation be approved, it will become the first comprehensive privacy law in US history. It will encompass the issues of e-commerce and personal information theft, and will designate the course of action for companies if their customers’ information should be compromised. The creation of the new legislation is aimed to replace the state laws that are in force now.
One of the bills under consideration, that prohibits companies to track consumers without giving them prior notification, has caused a lot of disagreements among the participants at the meeting. For example, Senator Pat Toomey, a member of Commerce's Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance subcommittee, claims that nowadays many people voluntarily place their personal information on social networking sites. He affirms that the new privacy rules could “break the Internet,” because “different consumers have different expectations about privacy.”
Senator Toomey calls on his colleagues to thoroughly consider the new rules before accepting them. "I'm sure no one on this committee wants to break the internet, or limit many of the popular online services that consumers can access, in order to avoid fundamentally altering the current online experience in creating these unintended consequences. I just urge that we all proceed with caution," he asserted.
However, other participants at the Wednesday hearing, including Julie Brill, Federal Trade Commissioner, Senators John Kerry and John Rockefeller, consider that protecting Internet privacy is very important for consumers. They claim that the new legislation will not restrict the activity of online companies but that it will make more transparent what kind of information about users they collect, giving the users the opportunity to choose whether to share this information or not.