Internet Privacy: Overview and Pending Legislation [Updated July 6, 2004]   [open pdf - 112KB]

"Internet privacy issues generally encompass two types of concerns. One is the collection of personally identifiable information (PII) by website operators from visitors to government and commercial websites, or by software that is surreptitiously installed on a user's computer ('spyware') and transmits the information to someone else. The other is the monitoring of electronic mail and Web usage by the government or law enforcement officials, employers, or Internet Service Providers. The debate over website information policies concerns whether industry self regulation or legislation is the best approach to protecting consumer privacy. Congress has considered legislation that would require commercial website operators to follow certain fair information practices, but none has passed. Legislation has passed, however, regarding information practices for federal government websites e.g, the E-Government Act (P.L. 107-347). Meanwhile, controversy is rising about how to protect computer users from spyware without creating unintended consequences. Four spyware bills are pending; one (H.R. 2929) has been ordered reported from committee. Identity theft is not an Internet privacy issue, but is often debated in the context of whether the Internet makes identity theft more prevalent. Thus, it is briefly discussed in this report. This report provides an overview of Internet privacy, tracks Internet privacy legislation pending before the 108th Congress, and describes the laws that were enacted in the 107th Congress. For information on wireless privacy issues, see CRS Report RL31636, Wireless Privacy: Availability of Location Information for Telemarketing. This report will be updated."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31408
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