Senator Hollings redeems himself?

— 12:00 AM on April 22, 2002

U.S. Senator Hollings (D-SC) recently brought attention to himself in the tech world for sponsoring a bill known as the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, or SSSCA. The SSSCA would have rendered the sale of all digital media recording and playback hardware that did not contain integrated SSSCA-compliant copyright protection illegal.

Now, it would seem Senator Hollings is trying to curry favor with the same folks he had previously enraged. His Online Personal Privacy Act (OPPA for short?) would require explicitly granted consent from online users before personal information could be collected about them by any corporation. The bill was introduced in the Senate this past Thursday.

Hollings' Online Personal Privacy Act aims to make privacy laws consistent across the United States, pre-empting all state statutes and regulations related to Internet privacy. Hollings said the proposal has been significantly narrowed from previous versions and reflects the European Union privacy directive, which recognizes different types of information.

The proposed bill slices online personal information into two camps: sensitive and nonsensitive information. It defines sensitive information as relating to any financial, medical, ethnic identification, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or political data. Before any company can collect, use, disclose or sell sensitive information, they would need the consent of individuals, a procedure known as "opt-in." In addition, the bill would require businesses to provide "opt-out" options when collecting nonsensitive information, such as that related to online purchases of clothing or sports equipment.

It appears Senator Hollings does indeed have some vision of our technological future, and that federal regulation plays a large role in it, for both good and ill. Do we trust his vision? If you want to more know about him, his personal website is here. Go take a peek, and evaluate his movitves for yourself. We will be hearing more from him in the future for certain.
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