Washington, DC -- In response to the latest privacy breach of data collected by AOL, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), the top Democrat on the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, renewed his call for Congress to pass legislation intended to prevent the perpetual amassing of private information by Internet website owners.  Markey is the author of HR 4731, The Eliminate Warehousing of Consumer Internet Data Act of 2006 – designed to strengthen consumers’ Internet privacy and prevent companies from storing personal information for indefinite periods of time.

“In this digital information age, the personal data we hand over to dozens of websites are the keys which unlock the personal lives and valuable possessions of millions of Americans.  Internet companies are often able to glean personal information through a computer user’s surfing and searching of Internet sites.  Such entities should not hoard this data, which often hold the imprints of millions of individuals and their Internet use.  This stored-up data about consumers’ Internet use should not be needlessly kept in perpetuity, inviting data thieves or fraudsters, or disclosure through judicial fishing expeditions,” said Markey, who is also the author of H.R. 1078, “The Social Security Number Protection Act,” a bill aimed at protecting consumers from the abuse of the purchase and sale of social security numbers.

“Technology is the engine which will drive our economy into the next century, but the success of this technology balances on the public trust.  If 2005 was the year of the data breach, I want to make sure that 2006 is the year of safeguarding the privacy of American citizens by introducing legislation to prevent the stockpiling of private citizens personal data,” Markey continued.

Rep. Markey’s bill would require owners of Internet websites to destroy warehoused information that is obsolete and no longer necessary for a legitimate business purpose or requested pursuant to court orders.  Data that can be used to individually identify a consumer, including credit card numbers, bank numbers, and date of birth, home address and Social Security numbers would have to be destroyed.  And the bill directs the Federal Trade Commission to set standards and enforce this act.

The measure introduced by Rep. Markey is the same standard that Congress has adopted for information gathered by cable companies about individual viewing and subscription habits, and it better balances the tension between the commercial operations of Internet search engines and the privacy concerns of all Americans.

“We must stop companies from unnecessarily storing the building blocks of American citizens’ private lives,” Markey concluded.

For information on Rep. Markey’s work to protect consumer privacy, check out: http://markey.house.gov/.

August 9, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein