Murdochgate Could Become Privacy Poster Child on Capitol Hill

Privacy hearing sees much discussion of hacking scandal

WASHINGTON—The News Corp. phone hacking scandal in the U.K. may be about to become the poster child for the privacy debate on Capitol Hill. It was certainly top of mind for members, from both parties, of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which held a hearing on general online privacy issues Thursday. 

“We often hear that privacy laws in Europe are much stricter than they are in the U.S. If that’s so, it’s hard to understand how the phone hacking incidents in Britain could have gotten so far out of hand. It raises the question of whether American consumers are as vulnerable as politicians and celebrities in London,” Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., said in her opening statement.

Though none of the members took the opportunity to call for an investigation by the Department of Justice or Securities and Exchange Commission as several senators have, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., did suggest that the full Committee on Energy & Commerce, because of its importance in the House, could look at the “burgeoning scandal” at News Corp.

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who testified Thursday, clarified that the regulator did not have the authority to go after phone hackers. “That is for criminal authorities,” he said.