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Hollings Introduces Privacy Bill 296

Dynedain writes "Senator Disney (aka Hollings) is apparently trying to get on techies' good side. ZDnet is reporting he is proposing a bill for 'net privacy' requiring opt-in agreements when companies want to sell 'sensitive' information (medical history, sexual preference, etc.) and opt-out agreements when selling non-sensitive (buying habits). US Chamber of Commerce is opposing this." Another article on Newsbytes notes that there are likely to be several privacy bills floating around, offering different levels of actual protection.
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Hollings Introduces Privacy Bill

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  • by Dimensio ( 311070 ) <> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:01PM (#3373956)
    ...unless it gives 24-hour time. Or if it also displays the date. Or if someone keep screwing with it and all.

    In any case, I wonder what his motivation is for this proposed bill. Is Disney interested in protecting their own digital privacy? Perhaps he's planning on expanding the bill to include much of the implications of the CBPTDA or whatever it was called...perhaps Disney thinks that such a law could warrant "mandated privacy devices" that would have the same effect.

    After his last proposal, I cannot trust Hollings no matter what he offers.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:01PM (#3373959)
    I dont see why your buyers habbits should have to opt opt. They should opt in as well. I buy something online They should ask me if I want my information spread to other companies or not. and Not just send the information and have me ask them to stop. By that time I realize I am on the list my Data would be spread to hundreds of sources and I have to opt out of each one.
  • by Ctrl-Z ( 28806 ) <tim.timcoleman@com> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:04PM (#3373994) Homepage Journal

    I must say that I'm impressed that Senator Hollings would propose this bill, but I believe he is accurate when he says "Privacy fears are stifling the development and expansion of the Internet as an engine of economic growth."

    My concern with this bill is who will actually enforce it if it becomes law? It's nice to have theoretical privacy, but will it really work in practice? And if it turns out to be enforceable, what stops the disreputable businesses from relocating outside of the US?
  • by robbway ( 200983 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:09PM (#3374024) Journal
    Could there be a connection?
  • by wa1hco ( 37574 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:09PM (#3374027)
    This law injects the government into internet technology through detailed definitions of privacy, sensitive vs non sensitive, etc. much like the DMCA (whatever it's called now) injects government into internet technology and definition of digital rights. Once the government gets into the habit of regulating, it won't stop. You might like government mandated privacy, now. But what happens when government changes the definition of "sensitive information", probably due to lobbying pressure.

    Both these laws create a power axis between congress and lobbyists that leaves out the people in general and technologists in particular. Oppose all these laws.
  • by ip_vjl ( 410654 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:15PM (#3374076) Homepage
    Wondering why Hollings would support this?

    Think about it. Having valid concerns about privacy is one of the things that still gives the consumer ammunition in the argument for keeping anonymity on the web.

    If you can break down the arguments for anonymity, you can slowly start to introduce laws that may eventually eliminate the ability to transact anonymously over the web.

    If everything you do is traceable back to you ... how much easier is it to enforce anti-piracy legislation.

  • Sorry Senator Disney (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PoiBoy ( 525770 ) <brian.poiholdings@com> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:16PM (#3374084) Homepage
    There are many different internet privacy bills floating around Washington. Therefore, I see no reason to support Hollings' bill.

    Given his well-known legislative agenda "protecting" large media companies, can any of us really trust him. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some hidden agenda in his bill that will further help Disney et. al.

  • I'm Psychic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:21PM (#3374115) Homepage Journal

    Holling's move makes more sense than you realize.

    I commented several months ago about this but couldn't find it using the search engine, so I'll just repeat, roughly, what I said earlier.

    Privacy advocates and advocates of Content Use Restriction (DRM) have a shared goal.

    You, the liberty loving individual, don't want big bad governments and corporations using data about you without your permission. You want control over that data.

    Purveyors of digitized content don't want tiny bad people "pirates" using their data without their permission. They want control over that data.

    A rock-solid data tagging and protection system, (you know, the impractical kind) would provide a means to meet not only the needs of individuals seeking ownership and protection of their own data from duplication, but would simultaneously provide similar technology to media distributors seeking ownershop and protection of their data from duplication.

    When I first realized this I was kind of taken aback, because, like many here, I've always place a higher value on the protection of my data than on the protection of someone else's data. That same disconnect will continue to confuse many advocates on both sides of the issue.

    My own view is pragmatic: if it were easily possible to protect data this way, fine. But it's not. Once it's out there, it's beyond your control, just as for millenia, your spoken and written words have been able to disseminate beyond your control.

  • by VAXman ( 96870 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:26PM (#3374145)
    What's the difference between the two bills? The first proposes massive government regulation and controls on makers of technology in order to enforce copyright protection. The second nill also proposes massive government regulation and controls on makers of technology in order to force privacy.

    Why should the government support massive regulation dictating how companies build internet products, all in the name of protecting piracy? That's just as patently riduclous as forcing hardware makers to include copyright controls on their products.

    The government should keep its hands out of technology, period.
  • I have a solution... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:27PM (#3374149) Homepage
    OPT in on everything is required and a federal fine of $1000.00 per incident of releasing the unauthorized information and every use of it thereafter.

    I can hear the marketing dweebs already... "OMG you'll destroy marketing, and all bssnisses, the world will spiral into oblivion if we dont know you buy generic toiler paper every other thursday with your debit card!"

    again I say.... Bullcrap.. the world will continue, we will still see commercials, and things will continue EXCEPT they have to actually ask for the information now... it's like businesses are allowed to not have manners...
  • Do hold a grudge!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Evro ( 18923 ) <> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:29PM (#3374162) Homepage Journal
    Then when he gets all the techies to support this bill, he'll attach the SSSCA/CDBITPA as a rider. Then what? Gonna do a 180?

    I find it suspicious that after such a pro-corporation bill, he's proposing a pro-consumer one. Either he has a bizarre set of values or he's trying to gain favor for some reason. Either way, I think his past track record should speak for itself. There are other privacy bills; perhaps Mr. Rick Boucher will propose one that's worthy. He seems to be the only congressperson with any sense of technology/privacy issues at all.
  • by wayward_son ( 146338 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:38PM (#3374225)
    Is it any coincidence that Hollings is the spokesman for all of these bills that are harmful to consumers, but loved by Hollywood? Quite simply, no one in South Carolina cares. I live in South Carolina and I haven't heard any media converage about this.

    Hollings is the spokesman for this because he won't take any heat from his constituants. As long as he brings the pork back to Charleston, he'll keep getting re-elected. (Let's face it, getting re-elected to the Senate in South Carolina isn't that difficult.) South Carolina is perhaps the least techonologically savvy states in the country (#1 in percentage of population living in mobile homes, #1 in rates of STD infection, #51 in SAT scores.) People here are too concerned with the damn Confederate flag to notice.

    My point is that Disney has lots of other Senators in their pocket. It's just that only Hollings can be so blatant about it.

  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:42PM (#3374247) Journal

    Listen, if Hollings is sponsering this bill because he wants to "make-up" with the tech-community, then the worst thing the tech-community can do is continue to boycott him.

    If he wants to make up with me he needs to denounce the SSSCA as blatently unconstitutional and vow to never sponsor a bill remotely like it again. Then he'll graduate into my "I won't vote for you but I won't do everything in my power to stop you" category.

    Don't make it personal, it's simply politics. We just have to play the game.

    And the rules of the game say that once you sponsor nonsense like the SSSCA you're ejected. And you can't get back in no matter how much you apologize. It's too late. You lose. If you want a place in politics, apologize for your misdeeds and go work for someone else's campaign. If you apologize I'll consider voting for someone you support.

  • by happyclam ( 564118 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:42PM (#3374248)

    The real problem with privacy legislation is that the law needs to define clearly something that is very context-sensitive and subjective.

    More amusing and insightful than informative, NPR's David Weinberger a week or so ago ran this commentary [] about how as a digital society we are losing the subtle art of determining the context of information.

    In case the link gets /.ed, the fundamental points are these:

    • The privacy of pretty much all information is context-sensitive.
    • We use body language, visual and voice cues to indicate whether people should pursue certain lines of questioning or not, or whether something they overheard should be considered private, whether it was said in a public place or not.
    • Digital communication eliminates these subtle "real world" variables, so it's much more difficult to define what is private and what is not.
    • As a result, as a society we are beginning to consider all information as public if it happens to be voiced, photographed, etc. anywhere, any time. (Remember the email from the British girl whose celebrated quote, "yours was yum," became international news fodder?)

    How do we handle this as a society? How should I know? I had hoped we had elected people smarter than I to figure it out, but after seeing Enron and now Hollings, I'm beginning to despair of that notion...

  • by Mr.Sharpy ( 472377 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:43PM (#3374252)
    I imagine the motivation behind this is so that the bill can later be amended to include CBPTDA provisions. By doing so, if they fail to pass the legislations he and those that support him can reign fire down on the opposition by saying they are anti-privacy. It is cases like this that make a line-item veto authority for the president very attractive.
  • by SetarconeX ( 160251 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:43PM (#3374257)
    "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, disagreed....saying it would hinder online commerce and would open a plethora of class-action lawsuits."

    I must say, I really despise this argument. Doing the right thing, even with regards to law, should not be put on the backburner simply because it's regarded as "too much trouble."

    The fact of the matter is, would you really be upset if every spammer on the web was hit with multiple class-action suits? Do you really think the economy would be harmed if I got a little less pr0n in my inbox every day?

    Didn't think so.
  • by jbf ( 30261 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:46PM (#3374274)
    I hate having my data sold/being spammed as much as the next guy, but I wonder if banning this won't have the same effect as banning crypto export: they'll just develop and do it outside our borders. Then even federal law has no jurisdiction to stop them. For example, large US based web service provider could set up a shell company in the Bahamas which runs its website, collects all the marketable data, and sells it...

    The problem with laws on the Internet is that they're not of a larger scale than just a nation, so the only way to deal with privacy violations, spam, etc. is: 1) on a global basis or 2) a technical solution or 3) to have people not be stupid and give out sensitive information. Since (2) doesn't apply, and (1)'s not going to happen any time in the near future, (3) is the only way to go?
  • You are correct, sir (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:47PM (#3374287) Homepage
    Given his track record, I have to assume Holling's latest initiative is merely a smokescreen for CBDTPA/SSSCA. I can't wait to see the Disney ammendments.
  • by happyclam ( 564118 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:55PM (#3374341)
    The fact of the matter is, would you really be upset if every spammer on the web was hit with multiple class-action suits?

    That's not their concern.

    The real concern is that some company such as eBay or Microsoft or Sun or anyone (Disney even!), has a ton of money through legitimate business that never infringed on anyone's privacy. What's to stop a lawyer from filing class-action lawsuits against that company charging vague privacy infringements? The company, having oodles of money, will settle rather than go to court. The lawyers make out like bandits while all the company's customers get $0.09 each.

    Don't believe it will happen? Happens all the time with shareholder lawsuits. There are law firms that specialize in watching for sharp stock value drops and filing class-action lawsuits on behalf of the shareholders.

  • what's behind it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by proclus ( 33875 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:59PM (#3374370) Homepage Journal
    Is anyone else worried that upcoming privacy
    legislation will fix things so that only wealthy corporations can
    "trade" personal information?


  • Either/Or? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lousyd ( 459028 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:04PM (#3374411)
    Good Bill? Bad Bill?

    No bill, please. Like all bills, somebody has to pay, and it should be neither you *nor* me.

    I don't want companies to use my information without my permission, and I want to be able to give my permission. Hollings' mistake is in thinking that it's his right to tell business owners how they're going to run their business, and telling me, in effect, what business practices I'm allowed to deal with.

    Get off my back!

  • Re:Great... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hagardtroll ( 562208 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:41PM (#3374683) Journal
    This seems like is has one big loophole. The overlap between non-sensitive and sensitive data.

    For many buying habits ARE political and interpreted as such by marketers.

    For example.

    I bought trees from so I wouldn't have to look at my neighbors house. As a result of the 'PURCHASE', I was placed on the mailing list of greenpeace, world wildlife fund, etc.

    So, when buying habits can be interpreted as political information what side does this law place that information on?

    All information sharing should be Opt IN. No exceptions, that is the only way privacy is protected.
  • by Quebec ( 35169 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @02:01PM (#3374843) Homepage
    Let's design a standart form (much like
    the nutritional values on food packages)
    that easily point out all main privacy,
    copyrights and license fees issues
    almost on a blink of an eye.
    All EULAs without the standart form would be

  • by DGolden ( 17848 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @02:26PM (#3375004) Homepage Journal
    Note: I'm not in the US, but US decisions have a way of being passed off as law in the EU... so this still concernes me.

    I'm a techie, AND I DON'T WANT "PRIVACY". I want _balance_. If someone has information about me, I want access to information on them. I DON'T want the RIAA/whoever to be able to make any deals with ANYONE behind closed doors.

    Total Societal Transparency.

    Let _everyone_ know everything, if they want to. If a corporation has data on its customers, then the corporation should not be allowed any meetings behind closed doors.

    Extreme example for illustrative purposes: surveillance cameras everwhere. Oh no! people cry... BUT: make the network Public Access, so that anyone, not just a privileged few, can tap in and keep an eye on what people are doing - and don't forget, other people will be able to see you watching, so don't be a perv.... i.e. it's a self-correcting way to run a society.

    See David Brin's book, "The Transparent Society: Will Technology for us to choose Between Freedom And Privacy?".

    Chapter one is available on-line here [] - I suggest all Techies read it rather than believing Privacy is necessarily a good thing.

    If the choice becomes "Privacy or Freedom", I'm for Freedom.

    How far would the RIAA or the WTO get if every person on earth was potentially privy to every bit of their meetings? All they usually currently give out is what they say happened, after the fact...

    Privacy is what gives them their political edge. We should be fighting to destroy privacy, not uphold it.

    And to be fair, we shouldn't want to hold onto our own privacy either. Paraphrasing Brin: "People always want privacy for themselves and accountability from other people - some people, even quite well-meaning and intelligent people [me: EFF?], do not see that their own position is illogical, asking for greater openness from others, and privacy for themselves"

    Maybe Hollings has cottoned on to that, and is chucking away at the naive techies right now...

  • Overrides state laws (Score:2, Interesting)

    by richmaine ( 128733 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @03:19PM (#3375316)
    This bill overrides some stronger state laws.

    Might that actually be it's objective - to
    pre-empt stronger ones?
  • by evilpaul13 ( 181626 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @04:04PM (#3375603)
    He can tell me who bought this legislation and how they are directly benefiting from it!

    Hypothetical Scenario: Does Disney not need to buy personal information (maybe they collect enough on their own?), so they are going to use it to prevent others from access to such information to prevent them from competing?

    I don't claim to know in anyway the above is true, but it would seem possible. I'm certainly not stupid enough to believe that after Mister Hollings publically demonstrates what a whore he is with his so-called Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act that he's suddenly interested in protecting the rights of the people of the United States.

    If I were in Congress I'd vote against this Bill based on who's the owner of the rock it crawled out from under.

This is now. Later is later.