Politico takes a look at what the retirement of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) will mean for privacy legislation. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rockefeller has held hearings on issues such as “The Need for Privacy Protections: Is Industry Self-Regulation Adequate?”; he opened an investigation into data brokers — companies that collect and sell data on individuals; after the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that credit-card companies Visa and MasterCard “are pushing into a new business: using what they know about people’s credit-card purchases for targeting them with ads online,” Rockefeller wrote to both MasterCard and Visa asking about the report; also in 2011, he introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011 (pdf) (Do Not Track proposals would allow consumers to restrict the data gathered by Web sites and marketers on the consumers’ online browsing or purchases).
Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s announcement that he’ll retire in 2015 is the latest personnel move in a month that has thrown the legislative end of the online consumer privacy world into flux.
The West Virginia Democrat, who’s been the upper chamber’s most vocal proponent of strengthening online privacy laws, is the third privacy hawk in three weeks to make news for potentially being on the move. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who co-introduced a privacy bill of rights in April 2011, has been tapped by President Barack Obama for secretary of state. That opens a Senate seat in Massachusetts that longtime privacy hawk and Democratic Rep. Ed Markey wants and is likely to be focused on this session.
Those three aren’t the only lawmakers interested in a growing technological issue [...]
But the trio has been a standard-bearer, and the moves throw an issue, which was in many ways on target for a breakout year in 2013, somewhat up in the air.
Rockefeller, who has served more than 25 years in the Senate and has been a privacy leader from his perch as chairman of the powerful Senate commerce committee, still has a full two years left in the upper chamber. And his announcement Friday raises the question: Does the two-year time frame fuel the fire among him and his colleagues to pass an online privacy bill — or does it give opponents more resolve to run out the clock?
Rockefeller, for his part, made clear during remarks announcing his decision that he plans to continue playing at full speed over the next two years — making a specific reference to making the “Internet more safe.”
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