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    Politico: Online privacy debate gets revived

    Politico reports on the push on Capitol Hill among members of Congress to improve privacy protections for consumers online:

    Lawmakers in both parties are signaling renewed interest in protecting consumers’ online privacy. Senate Democrats appear to be readying a new push to revive the debate over how companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook should handle users’ sensitive details online. And a number of new House Republican leaders are promising to explore the issue in 2011, while the Obama administration continues to devise its own new digital rules of the road.

    For now, all eyes are on the Senate Commerce Committee, which industry sources expect will host the first public hearing on Internet privacy as early as mid-February. That inquiry is expected to include some discussion of “Do Not Track” technology — or tools that allow consumers to opt out of seeing advertisements based on the sites they visit. […]

    In another sign of renewed interest on the Hill, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is widely believed to be working on privacy reform legislation. An early draft of Kerry’s effort, obtained this week by POLITICO, would follow a recent recommendation from the Commerce Department to create a federal office dedicated to online privacy.

    The proposal has been making the rounds among privacy lobbyists since December, but Kerry’s spokeswoman told POLITICO it is an older draft of the bill. She said he has not yet introduced a final product. […]

    Industry leaders have widely anticipated a flood of online privacy efforts to originate on the Hill in 2011, following a steady stream of gaffes that plagued even the most established of Web players over the past few months. […]

    Both chambers and parties still have their disagreements over how best to oversee these companies and ensure consumers are being protected online. But recent headlines have provoked a groundswell of interest in Washington to offer some remedy in 2011.

    For one thing, top Republicans on House Energy and Commerce Committee labeled privacy one of the panel’s top priorities entering 2011 in a memo leaked to reporters this week. […]

    The subcommittee that played a big role in the privacy debate last year, under the helm of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), also staked its claim in the debate this week. New Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) informed members in a “Dear Colleague” letter Thursday she was deeply committed to the issue and planned to meet with stakeholders as debate unfolds.

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