Congress has reconvened for the second year of the 110th Congress and the final year of the eight-year Bush presidency. Ordinarily, the calendar in a Presidential election year has fewer work days during which Congress is in session and a corresponding greater number of issues and priorities to resolve in the shorter timeframe. This is likely to be the case this year, particularly given the expected contentious Presidential election.
As Congress reconvenes, there are a number of Internet- and privacy-related issues that are on the agenda of the various committees of jurisdiction. Specifically, issues surrounding data security breach legislation, Social Security Number legislation, online advertising, and spyware could all receive attention this year. Given the compressed time frame and the complexity of the issues, enactment of law in any of these areas may prove challenging in 2008. If such legislation is not enacted this year, developments will certainly set the stage for Congressional consideration of these issues in 2009. The status of this legislation is set forth in more detail below.
Data Security Legislation:
The Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 1178 in April 2007. This bill has not seen additional attention at this point. There was discussion at the time of passage out of the Committee on how to “merge” them with the Senate Judiciary Committee bills.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 239 and S. 495 in May 2007. No further action on them has yet occurred.
The Senate Banking Committee has indicated an interest in this issue but has not yet considered legislation.
Social Security Number Legislation:
The Senate Commerce Committee data security legislation (S. 1178) includes a section that would regulate Social Security numbers. This provision also was introduced as a stand-alone bill, S. 1208, by Senator Dorgan.
The House Ways & Means Committee approved H.R. 3046 in July 2007.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved H.R. 948 in May 2007.
Online Advertising Competition and Privacy Issues:
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing on the pending Google-DoubleClick merger in September 2007. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has indicated that it intends to hold a hearing on the privacy impact of the pending Google acquisition of DoubleClick.
The recent announcement of Microsoft’s bid to acquire Yahoo! immediately resulted in press releases from the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee indicating their intent to hold hearings to evaluate competition in the online advertising space. The Senate Judiciary Antirust Subcommittee again indicated its intent to evaluate related privacy issues.
The House of Representatives in May and June 2007 passed two bills regarding spyware, one that came through the House Energy & Commerce Committee, H.R. 964, and one that came through the House Judiciary Committee, H.R. 1525. The House Energy and Commerce bill regulates software downloads and other practices. The Judiciary bill is more focused on combating bad actors and illegal activity. In the Senate, Senator Pryor introduced spyware legislation, S. 1625, that is similar to a bill considered in the previous Senate by the Commerce Committee. This bill has not yet been considered by the Senate Commerce Committee.
It is expected that deliberations on these issues will pick up speed as spring approaches.