Bill extends 'no cookies' rule to all federal Web sites

The House on Wednesday is expected to adopt the compromise version of a fiscal 2002 Treasury-Postal Service bill, H.R. 2590, that would expand privacy protections for people visiting federal Web sites and provide funds for crime-fighting technology. Lawmakers debated the bill in the morning and planned to cast a vote later in the day. They are expected to pass the measure, and the Senate is likely to clear it for President Bush's signature by the end of the week, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee spokeswoman. The legislation would prohibit federal agencies from collecting and distributing personal information on computer users who visit federal Web sites. Agencies also would be barred from working with third parties to collect such information. The ban would not apply to data that does not identify individuals or to information submitted voluntarily. Similar language was included in the fiscal 2001 Treasury-Postal Service spending bill, but it applied only to those agencies funded by the bill. The new legislation would expand the prohibition to all federal agencies, according to a spokeswoman for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Law enforcement still could access personal information, as could operators of Internet sites if security concerns arose. The provision "assures that law enforcement can only use data collected over the Internet in a specified, legal manner," Hoyer's spokeswoman said. The bill also would allocate $5 million toward e-government initiatives, a figure that falls far short of the $20 million requested by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Additionally, $19 million would be reserved for archiving records electronically. The measure also would dedicate $402.5 million toward protecting the nation's borders and children from terrorism and other crimes. That funding would include about $33 million for border-inspection technology and would maintain the current funding level of $4 million for a cyber-smuggling center in the Customs Service to target child pornography and child exploitation via the Internet. The bill would provide $5 million to protect intellectual property rights from counterfeiting or other violations of copyright law and $4 million for counter-drug technology transfer. It also would fund information technology upgrades at some agencies, including $3.8 million to modernize IT systems at the Treasury Department and $391.6 million through Sept. 30, 2004, for the IRS to purchase information technology systems. In addition, $11.7 million would go toward upgrading IT systems in the Executive Office of the President.