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Privacy Makes for Hot Dates in Congress Privacy Makes for Hot Dates in Congress

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Privacy Makes for Hot Dates in Congress

Bipartisanship appears to be alive and well in Congress -- at least when it comes to privacy legislation. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are looking hard for dates from the other party to join in offering legislation to boost consumer privacy online.

In the Senate, Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., is meeting this week with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in hopes of finally bringing him on board as the lead GOP co-sponsor of the Massachusetts Democrat's draft privacy bill.

When asked about signing on to Kerry's bill, McCain said Tuesday, "We're still in discussions." Asked if he has specific concerns, he said, "No, it's just a very tough and complex issue moving forward."

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said Tuesday that he is seeking a Democratic co-sponsor for legislation he plans to offer "soon," though did not offer a specific date. Stearns, a senior Energy and Commerce Committee member, did not provide any names of potential Democratic partners but is eyeing members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, according to an industry source.

Stearns' draft legislation is more limited in scope than Kerry's measure. The Stearns measure would require firms tell consumers what information they are collecting about them and give them a choice to opt out.

Stearns' legislation may get an airing at a privacy hearing the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade is expected to hold in early May, a spokesman for Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., said.

Kerry's bill has gone through nearly a dozen drafts with the latest circulating this week. It narrows the definition of personally identifiable information and also added a "privacy-by-design" provision requiring companies to build protections into their products and services.

Industry sources said Kerry is aiming to introduce the privacy bill next week.

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