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US committee passes privacy protection bill

A congressional committee has approved a bill that will require federal agencies to consider the impact of the new regulations and policies enforced after 11 September on individuals' privacy.

The US House Judiciary Committee approved the Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act, clearing it for consideration by the full US House of Representatives next month.

The bill would compel agencies to conduct a privacy impact analysis when proposing new rules and publish it for public comment.

The legislation calls for a privacy analysis that details any collection of personally identifiable information, and how that information would be used and shared. Agencies would also have to state how they intend to secure individuals' information, as well as offer alternative regulations that would have a lesser impact on individuals' privacy.

The legislation, introduced in April, comes at a time when concerns about the effects of government regulations on privacy have come to the forefront, especially in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

US civil libertarians and other concerned parties have taken issue with changes made by the FBI, for example, which loosen rules on domestic spying and make it easier for agents to conduct search and seizures.

While the transparency stipulated by the Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act is a move toward protecting individuals' privacy, it remains to be seen whether it would encourage agencies to scale back invasive regulations.

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