Monday, May 24, 2010

Boucher Bill Continues to Evoke Comment

Since Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) released his proposed privacy bill for public comment in early May, privacy advocates as well as interested industry representatives have been quick to criticize it as too overreaching or not sufficiently protective. This mixed reaction suggests that maybe he has actually struck a middle ground. A recent blogpost on the Workplace Privacy Counsel blog critcizes the bill as too burdensome for employers, and argues that despite its exclusion from coverage of businesses with 5,000 or less individuals, it will impact most employers since employers often collect "sensitive information" on their employees. Employers would actually have to disclose to the employees how they intend to use that sensitive information. The author expresses concern that the employers be faced with preparing a complex privacy notice, since different types of information require different uses and retention periods. Allusions to such complexity and the unwillingness of employers to be open and forthright are what cause privacy advocates to express concern about how sensitive personal information is being used, transferred, and retained. Yet, consumer groups have criticized the bill as not being comprehensive enough, and for preventing stronger state laws or individual rights of action. We know from press releases that Rep. Boucher has been studying this issue for quite some time, and is sensitive to being overreaching and quelching innovation. Yet he has heard the concerns of consumer privacy advocates and recognizes that left unchecked, privacy rights will be trampled. Rep. Boucher is to be applauded for reaching out by proposing his bill for comments, and starting a discussion that needs to be aired, hopefully in formal Congressional hearings sooner than later.

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