Tech Bytes – Tid Bits in Tech News: Regulation Before Deliberation in the Privacy Debate

As the weeks progress, the distinction between the political factions in the so-called privacy debate continues to fade. Both the House Government Reform Committee’s mark-up of H.R. 4049, “The Privacy Commission Bill,” and a recent ZDNet News interview with Gov. George W. Bush (R-Texas) have signaled that Republicans may be unwilling to defend consumers’ ability to engage in information-sharing arrangements.

Speaking with Lisa Bowman for ZDNet News, the presumptive Republican nominee documented his worry about privacy. “I think my information is my information,” the Governor began, “and I don’t want anybody to have it that I don’t want to have it.”

The best argument for the creation of such a commission was to offer a chance for free-market views to be injected into a debate in desperate need of them. This amendment has undermined that goal.

When asked for his response to the FTC’s legislative recommendation to regulate information-sharing, Bush explained, “I think there ought to be laws here that say a company cannot use my information without my permission to do so.” By essentially echoing the “opt-in” mantra of pro-regulation forces, Bush suggests his unwillingness to defend the public from government encroachment.

Republicans on the House Government Reform Committee displayed similar sheepishness during yesterday’s mark-up of Asa Hutchinson’s “Privacy Commission Bill.” In a bid to engender Democratic support and head-off confrontation in the fall, the committee’s Republicans unanimously agreed to accept Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) amendment to emphasize the peripheral nature of the committee—peripheral because Waxman’s amendment urges Congress not to halt work on other privacy legislation.

We will continue to speak on behalf of consumers and hope that voluntary information associations, like the Internet, will continue to thrive despite attempts at regulation.