Washington Technology Online CAPITAL ROUND-UP

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Online Privacy: Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn., has drafted a bill to guard the privacy of online subscribers' personal data, such as which World Wide Web sites they visit, or what products they buy. The bill will be opposed by the online industry, which sells data about subscribers' online activities to online advertisers. In 1996, the industry successfully killed a bill intended to curb the collection of data about children's online activities.

Product Liability: Senate Republicans will try again to pass a bill curbing product liability lawsuits. The measure is supported by various industries, including the automotive and computer manufacturing industries, which say they can be hit by unfair and costly lawsuits. Opposition from some Senate Democrats and President Bill Clinton killed a similar measure in 1996.

Information War: The resignation of Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general, and the impending departure of CIA chief John Deutch, will cut top-level support for the moribund White House commission on
information security.

The panel, championed by Gorelick and Deutch, is charged with the difficult task of sketching a national defense plan against foreign hackers. The panel is slated to submit its report by mid-July, but it may ask for an extension. One reason for Gorelick's resignation was President Bill Clinton's reluctance to give her Deutch's job.

Wiretaps: The FBI has submitted plans predicting its future wiretap needs, as part of the long-running battle over the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. FBI officials say they want to modify 58,000 lines for possible wiretaps in the next two years. Once the report is reviewed and accepted by Congress, the FBI can press ahead with plans to pay the phone companies for the cost of modifying new digital switching gear to enable court-ordered wiretaps.

Cellular Eavesdropping: The illegal recording of a cellular phone call featuring House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and the subsequent publication of a transcript, has generated much consternation among Republican representatives.

In response, Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce Committee's panel on telecommunications and consumer protection issues, said he will hold a hearing on the issue of cell-phone eavesdropping.

-Neil Munro


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