WASHINGTON - Lawmakers this week will continue shining the congressional spotlight on privacy issues with two hearings and a vote to establish a bipartisan study commission.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky is scheduled to appear before the Congressional Privacy Caucus today to discuss the agency's recent recommendation for legislation that would impose minimum privacy requirements on commercial Web sites.
Led by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., the caucus is a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are demanding tougher consumer privacy protection laws.
House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on his legislation that would restrict the sharing of medical records among financial institutions. Introduced last week, the bill would prevent insurance companies from transferring personally identifiable medical records to bank or other affiliates, or to third parties, unless customers affirmatively consent, or "opt in." Banks could not use such records to decide whether to grant loans without applicants' express permission. Consumers would have the right to review and correct their medical records.
Also on Wednesday the House Government Reform subcommittee on management, information, and technology is scheduled to vote on legislation that would establish a 17-member, bipartisan commission to spend 18 months studying consumer privacy issues.
The committee would be given $2.5 million to hold at least 20 hearings around the country and produce a report focusing on online privacy, identity theft, and the protection of financial, medical, and other records. Separately, lawmakers have scheduled hearings on legislation that would exclude swaps and other over-the-counter derivatives from federal regulation.
Rep. Tom Ewing, chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on risk management, plans to conduct a hearing Wednesday on his bill. A witness list was not yet available for either hearing.