Rockefeller, Kerry Hold Meeting to Discuss Online Privacy Bills

Senators working on hashing out differences between proposals

WASHINGTON—After a meeting Tuesday between Sens. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and John Kerry, D-Mass., it appears that the two may be one step closer to some consensus about their respective digital privacy bills.

Since May, when Rockefeller introduced the Do Not Track Online Act one month after Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights, neither bill has advanced in committee. Until a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, which Rockefeller chairs, on Wednesday, neither Rockefeller nor Kerry had given any indication of whether the two bills would be combined or if one would supersede the other.

Opening Wednesday’s hearing, the committee’s third on privacy, Rockefeller called the Kerry/McCain bill as “a very good piece of legislation” and “a more comprehensive piece of legislation.”

Also at the hearing, Kerry called Rockefeller’s bill “one component,” since that legislation deals strictly with online privacy and Kerry’s bill would deal with all aspects of digital privacy, including mobile services. “It’s critical to work with you,” Kerry to Rockefeller.

Kerry also took the opportunity to push his bill out front. “While by no means perfect, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights stands alone as the only comprehensive, bipartisan proposal before the Senate.” His bill also has the support of companies such as Intel, Microsoft, eBay, and Hewlett Packard, and consumer advocates like Consumers Union.

While Rockefeller and Kerry may be getting closer in resolving their two bills, lobbyists on the issue believe that neither bill has the vote to get through committee yet. And on the Republican side of the committee, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey clearly was not convinced that either bill should move ahead. “I’m not sure there is a consensus of how to protect consumers or whether legislation is the best way to do so," Toomey said. "We need to make sure we don’t supply a solution in search of a problem."

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