Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty for Online Privacy Bill?

Lora Bentley

Nobody is satisfied with the online privacy bill Reps Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) are working on. Privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog, and the Center for Digital Democracy say the bill's enforcement provisions are too weak. Internet companies and the groups that represent them, on the other hand, say the legislation will kill the Internet econcomy.


According to The Hill, Interactive Advertising Bureau vice president Mike Zaneis called the legislation "the worst anti-stimulus bill Congress could pass." He argued that it would end "hundreds of thousands" of Internet advertising jobs and force small publications out of business. Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson told reporters he couldn't say much good about the bill.


Isn't everybody sort of losing sight of one important thing? This bill is still in draft form. It hasn't been introduced to a committee yet, let alone gone through the many revisions it will undoubtedly see before it's voted on. Can't we at least be glad the discussion is under way and that both sides are engaged in the process? Call me Pollyanna, but it seems much more could be accomplished if everyone could go into the process thinking about how they can work together to accomplish the best result for everyone rather than focusing on what they might lose.


Don't get me wrong. I understand either side's need to come out swinging from the beginning so they have room to negotiate along the way when the time comes. That's part of it, and smart strategy, but if they can see nothing good in the bill even at this early stage, will they be open to the giving and taking that's necessary?


At least the major players have indicated they will remain closely involved as the bill progresses. As Zaneis told The Hill, "This is a good beginning point for discussion."

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