Internet privacy and hacking focus of Congress (By Washington Internet Daily via NewsEdge.) – Internet privacy and hacking focus of Congress.

Privacy on the Internet is the focus of a new Senate bill and an upcoming House joint hearing. In both cases, the concern is with the vulnerability of personally identifiable information and the increasing ease that such information can be obtained by hackers and others with ill intent.

Sen. Feinstein (D-Cal.) introduced yet another ID theft bill, with this one having implications for the Internet. Her proposed Privacy Act of 2003 (S-745) essentially would create a national opt-in standard for personally identifiable information. Feinstein said on the floor Mon. that the bill would “require companies to gain consumers' written consent prior to selling their most sensitive personal information, including personal health information, financial information, Social Security numbers and drivers' license data; and require companies to provide consumers notice and an opportunity to refuse to allow their less sensitive personal information to be sold.”

“With access to sensitive data so widely available — often just at the touch of a keyboard — it is easy to understand why identity theft has become one of the country's fastest growing crimes,” she said, citing figures showing it was the FTC's number one complaint. “Americans enjoy the highest level of privacy protection concerning the names of the movies they rent at a video store,” she said (the result of a law that responded to reporters' examining video store records of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork), but “at the same time, it is perfectly legal to sell another person's Social Security number over the Internet.”

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Her bill differs from other privacy bills because it is technology-neutral, Feinstein said. It “protects the privacy of information regardless of the medium through which it is collected. Other privacy proposals have tried to confine privacy legislation to the Internet. These proposals unfairly discriminate against high-technology users.” Although its provisions could have led to a referral to the Senate Commerce, Finance or Banking committees, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee, on which Feinstein sits.

Meanwhile, 2 House subcommittees plan a joint hearing on privacy and identity theft, with a focus on technology and the Internet. The House Financial Services Financial Institutions Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will examine Thurs. 3 cases in which consumer credit data were stolen. In one case, computer files with medical information on 562,000 patients was stolen. In another, a hacker breached a 3rd-party medical processor and gained access to 10 million credit cards. The 3rd case involved stolen passwords and access codes that led to downloading of credit reports on at least 30,000 people.  [Privacy Digest]

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