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Congressmen Asa Hutchinson (Republican, Arkansas) and Jim Moran (Democrat, Virginia) on Wednesday introduced legislation to create a bipartisan privacy protection commission. The proposed 17-member commission would make recommendations regarding online privacy, identity theft, and the protection of health, medical, financial and governmental records. "Americans....are alarmed at the accessibility of their medical records; they are worried how their financial information is being used; and they want to know that they can get on the Internet without strangers downloading personal information about them and in today’s information society," Hutchinson said. There are numerous privacy-related bills circulating about Capitol Hill in various stages of development. The Hutchinson-Moran commission would attempt to harmonise and consolidate a broad range of related legislative initiatives. Privacy has not been addressed in a comprehensive manner since the advent of the 'Information Revolution' and the pervasive impact of the Internet on American society, the proposal says. The commission would study current privacy laws, conduct field hearings around the country to entertain comments from the public, and report to Congress on its findings and recommendations for regulatory and legislative reform. It would consist of 17 members appointed in a bipartisan fashion by the President, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, and a chairman appointed jointly by the President, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. So much for a clean, uncomplicated start. It sounds just horrible enough to inspire some half-decent industry self-regulation. And perhaps that's the point, after all. ®

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