Earlier this week, Gerry Waldron discussed the 2011 outlook for online privacy legislation in the House, examining the impact that major changes to membership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee will have. We now know that, despite former Telecom Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher’s loss in the November election, his influence may live on in the form of a reworked version of the draft privacy legislation he developed with Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL).
Last term, Reps. Boucher and Stearns circulated a draft of comprehensive privacy legislation, which drew strong criticism from industry and consumer groups. The draft bill would have required websites to inform users how they collect and use personally identifiable information but would have maintained an opt-out standard for collection of consumer data, except where certain types of particularly sensitive information are shared with third parties. Industry leaders protested that the draft legislation was too restrictive and could hamper the current system of ad-supported free content on the Internet, while privacy advocates argued that the draft bill did not go far enough in protecting consumer privacy. Rep. Stearns has revealed that he is currently revising the draft bill to address those concerns and plans to offer a new version soon.