Senate Commerce Committee Passes Children's Net Privacy Bill

(October 1, 1998)  The Senate Commerce Committee passed an amended version of S 2326, the "Children's Online Privacy Protection Act," by a unanimous voice vote.   The bill would ban operators of websites and online services that are directed to children from collecting information from children under thirteen without parental consent.

See, Summary of Child Online Privacy Protection Act, S 2326 and HR 4667.

The bill does not set forth specifications for this procedure. Rather, it delegates to the Federal Trade Commission the authority to promulgate regulations to enforce this restriction.  It also gives the FTC enforcement authority.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed an amendment in the nature of a substitute.  The amended bill (S 2326 RS) contains numerous changes from, and additions to, the original bill (S 2326 IS).

Excerpts from S 2326 RS.
Sec. 3(b)(1)

(1) ...  Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate ... regulations that ...  require that the operator of any website or online service that collects personal information from children or the operator of a website or online service that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a child --- (i) provide notice on the website of what information is collected from children by the operator, how the operator uses such information, and the operator's disclosure practice for such information; and (ii) to obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children;

One major change is that the requirement in the original bill that websites operators "use reasonable efforts to provide the parents with notice and an opportunity to prevent or curtail the collection or use of personal information collected from children over the age of 12 and under the age of 17" is not a part of the amended bill.

The Committee held a hearing on the bill last week. Robert Pitofsky, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, testified in favor of the bill.  Under the bill, his agency would receive new powers to adopt regulations, and prosecute violators.  A representative of the Direct Marketing Association also conceded that some governmental regulation to protect children's privacy was necessary.

To become law the bill must still be approved by the full Senate, and by the House of Representatives, before the Congress adjourns, perhaps as early as  the end of next week.  Sen. Richard Bryan (D-NV), the lead sponsor of the bill, stated in a press release that:

"Today's passage by the Commerce Committee was a major hurdle to clear, but we are not done yet.  I am committed to getting this legislation through both the House and Senate this year.  With just seven days left before this Congress is scheduled to adjourn, it could be very difficult.  However, I'm going to use these last few days to do whatever I can to make that happen."

The bill would have to be approved by the House Commerce Committee, which has many members who are very reluctant to impose any regulations on the Internet.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) are co-sponsoring of the amended bill.

Some other changes in the amended bill include:


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FTC Wants Power over Internet Privacy, 7/22/98.
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House Holds Hearing on Internet Fraud, 6/26/98.
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