Services & Software

Bill urges rules for policing privacy

A House committee approves a bill that requires federal agencies to prepare and publish an analysis of any proposed privacy regulation.

A House committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would require federal agencies to take privacy more seriously.

The Judiciary committee approved the Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act by voice vote, which means it goes to the full House for a possible floor vote within the next month.

Written by Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the bill requires federal agencies to prepare and publish a "privacy impact analysis" of any proposed regulation. Because it would not actually prohibit privacy-intrusive proposals, it is seen as a modest proposal that enjoys support from both Republicans and Democrats.

"Americans deserve to know how government regulations will impact their personal privacy, and this legislation reforms the regulatory process to make sure that occurs," Barr said after the vote. "This bill will not only make the federal government more accountable to the American people, but it will also serve to slow the growing erosion of citizens' privacy rights."

The measure would permit Americans who are "adversely affected" by agencies who did not prepare privacy impact statements to sue for relief in federal court. It does not apply to private firms or state and local government agencies.

A Barr aide said the bill was expected to go to the House floor for a vote before a scheduled adjournment in early October.

Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, but no hearings have been held so far.

After the Democrat-controlled Georgia legislature reshaped his district, Barr lost in the Republican primary last month. He told CNET at the time that he planned to stay involved in the nationwide debate over privacy.