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Members of Congress create new privacy groups

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Feb 17, 2000    

Members of Congress create new privacy groups

  • Lack of legislative action has prompted the formation of two new privacy caucuses, task forces on Capitol Hill

In light of failed efforts to enact medical privacy protections, members of Congress have created a new task force and caucus to address personal privacy issues.

A new Senate Democratic Privacy Task Force was announced Feb. 9. According to a press release from Sen. Tom Daschle’s office, “the panel, to be chaired by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), will examine what can and should be done to protect the privacy of Americans’ medical and financial records and other personal information.”

State laws limiting the release of medical records currently exist, but the protections vary significantly. Congress has been unable to pass laws sealing access to medical record, disagreeing on such issues as the right to sue over improper use of records and the privacy interests in teen abortions.

The Privacy Task Force was formed the day after President Clinton signed an executive order that will limit the release of records on genetic information and testing.

The task force will work with consumer and business groups and the Administration, and plans to have a role in informing the public on action that can be taken to protect personal privacy.

David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy, said more than half of the Democratic senators have expressed interest in participating.

The day after the task force was created, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Al.) announced the formation of a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Privacy Caucus.

The caucus, co-sponsored by Shelby, Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev) and Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), was formed in opposition to a financial modernization bill adopted by Congress last year. According to Shelby, the bill “allows financial institutions to buy, sell and trade an individual’s personal nonpublic financial information almost at will.”

Members of the Privacy Caucus plan to hold congressional briefings and examine and recommend legislative proposals to members of Congress in hopes of protecting individual access to, and control of, personal information.


© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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