Statement of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT).
Re: Hearing on S 2326, "Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Date: September 23, 1998.
Source: Senate Commerce Committee. This document was created by scanning a paper copy, and converting it into HTML.

SEPTEMBER 23, 1998

I would like to welcome everyone for today's hearing, as it concerns an issue of increasing importance: the protection of privacy on the Internet.

The explosive growth of the Internet has helped to foster the vision of a future of limitless opportunity, where individuals can become businesses overnight and information is no longer limited by geography. The stunning growth and reach of the Internet does pose problems as well as opportunities, however.

As personal and financial information moves more and more onto the Internet, privacy in the online world is becoming an increasing area of concern. The revolution in communications technology has allowed unscrupulous actors to intrude on the privacy of Americans. This invasion of privacy is particularly troublesome where children are concerned.

The recent GeoCities case illustrates the importance of examining the issue of the integrity of personal information on the Internet. GeoCities, an online community builder, was accused of disclosing personal information collected from member applications, even though it told its members that was not the case. GeoCities also failed to disclose how it would use this information, including information it collected from children. Fortunately in this case, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and GeoCities agreed to comply with a consent order to stop these deceptive practices. This consent order was the first of its kind and I applaud the vision and hard work of the FTC in helping to protect citizens' privacy in the online world. The Subcommittee is very fortunate to have Chairman Pitofsky of the FTC testify today and I look forward to his comments.

I also look forward to the comments of the witnesses on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which is co-sponsored by Senator McCain and Senator Bryan. I understand that the bill drew heavily from the recommendations and findings of the FTCs June report on Internet privacy, which found that 89% of children's websites collected personal information. The report also found that only 10% of the sites provide for some form of parental control over the collection and use of the information. Clearly this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

The McCain-Bryan bill requires the FTC to come up with rules that would provide notice of its personal information collection and use practices and obtain parental consent for the collection of personal information from children. While I have some minor technical concerns about a couple of the bill's provisions, I am sure they can be worked out and I look forward to eventually co-sponsoring the legislation.

I commend Sen. McCain and Sen. Bryan for their hard work on this critical issue. While I that the remaining legislative days available are few, I will work with the Chairman of the Full Committee, Sen. Bryan and others to move the bill to markup and passage by the full Senate as quickly as possible.

I look forward to the testimony of the witnesses. Thank you.