US Lawmakers Unveil New On-Offline Privacy Bill

10 May 2002

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has unveiled a new bill designed to implement privacy regulations for both off and online marketers.

The Consumer Privacy Protection Act has been introduced by representative Cliff Stearns (Republican, Florida), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Panel.

Unlike a separate bill introduced into the Senate by the chairman of the Commerce Committee, Ernest Hollings (Democrat, North Carolina), the new legislation covers bricks-and-mortar marketers as well as their web counterparts. However, the protection given to consumers’ privacy is less sweeping than under Hollings’ proposals.

Stearns’ bill would force all firms above a certain size to adopt a privacy policy, though it does not cover medical records or information held by financial institutions, both of which are dealt with under separate privacy legislation.

Marketers would be given considerable leeway to share information with third-party companies under the bill. In addition, it would forbid individual states from imposing privacy laws tougher than those of federal government.

The lawmakers also suggest preventing the Federal Trade Commission from imposing financial penalties on firms which publicly share personal information, as long as the disclosure is accidental and the company is bound by a self-regulatory industry scheme.

However, legislators unveiling the bill said that the restrictions on the FTC might be too broad, suggesting they could be altered in the finished version.

Stearns commented that including offline marketers in the bill would help address the anxieties of consumers and boost confidence. He added that the purpose of the bill is to “do no harm”, supporting privacy as well as the free dissemination of information.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff