CRITICS BLAST HOUSE PRIVACY BILL

Proposed Legislation Doesn't Please Business or Consumer Groups

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Privacy legislation introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives found no allies with either consumer groups or business groups, as both blasted the bill's provisions today.

The legislation, known as the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, for the first time affects online and offline marketers and is aimed at the collection of a consumer's personally identifiable information. The bill was unveiled by a bipartisan group of congressmen headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel.

Business groups today said the demand to regulate privacy for offline transactions doesn't exist and the legislation, as proposed, is unworkable.

'Disruptive' to retailers
"The provisions are

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thoughtful, but this bill requires things that would be disruptive in a retail environment," said Mallory Duncan, vice president and general counsel for the National Retail Federation. "If a sales associate says, 'We don't have that [item] in and I will call you back when we get it,' [under the bill] she would have to produce a privacy pamphlet."

Joe Rubin, director of congressional affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said there is"no demand" for offline privacy legislation and "little demand" for online privacy legislation.

Consumer groups, meanwhile, charged that the legislation would hurt rather than help protect a consumer's privacy, pointing to sections that bar lawsuits over privacy violations, supercede stricter state privacy laws and let companies share information with third-party partners.

Diminishes protections
"It should be labeled 'Consumer Prevention of Privacy Act,'" said Chris Hoofnagle, a legislative aide for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It will diminish individual privacy rights on- and offline."

Mr. Hoofnagle said the proposed legislation, which relies on the Federal Trade Commission and industry self-regulation for enforcement of the privacy provisions, gives few options to consumers when their cases don't effect enough people for the FTC to investigate.

"If there is an individual violation, what redress would you have?" he asked.

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