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Privacy protection and freedom of information study sought in Senate

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Dec 7, 1999    

Privacy protection and freedom of information study sought in Senate

  • Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wisc.) introduced an act that would establish a commission to study the impact on personal privacy of the Freedom of Information Act and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996.

A Wisconsin senator has introduced a bill to create a Privacy Protection Study Commission that would “explore and fully examine the current complexities of privacy protection.”

The act, introduced in November by Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.), would establish a commission of nine members chosen for their knowledge and expertise in “law, civil rights and liberties, privacy matters, government, business, telecommunications, media or information technology.” Three members each would be selected by the House, the Senate, and the administration.

Duties of the commission outlined in the bill would be to conduct a thorough investigation of all matters relating to the Freedom of Information Act and implementation of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996, to report findings and make recommendations for administrative actions and legislation.

Purposes cited in the bill are to examine implications of technologies on individual privacy; ensure appropriate privacy protection of both government and private sector uses of personal information; identify government efforts to establish privacy policy including improved coordination between agencies and with foreign governments; evaluate technological routes to privacy protection; and study “the extent, need and feasibility” of individual control over personal information.

The findings section of the bill acknowledges that openness of government records is increasingly important to a free and democratic society. It also says that the right of individual privacy must be weighed against legitimate uses of personal information that benefit the public good. However, all other language in the bill concerns needs for expanded privacy protection in government and private records.


© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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