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Senators demand for right to hide their personal info online

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the Texas Values "Faith, Family and Freedom Forum" in Sept. 2019. (Eli Imadali/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)
July 17, 2023

Congressional leaders, led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), are proposing legislation that would permit federal lawmakers to erase personal data about them and their families from the internet.

According to Politico, the proposed legislation, known as the ‘Congressional Security and Privacy Amendment,’ is being proposed as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Supporters of the amendment argue for the necessity of additional protections, citing a surge in threats to personal safety targeting lawmakers and their families from disgruntled constituents and others.

The initiative led by Cruz and Klobuchar parallels a recent law empowering judges to remove personal details such as home addresses and employment information of family members from the internet. While focused on the extraction of information from commercial databases, it has drawn criticism for its alleged vagueness regarding journalism and commentary.

“We actually have not been able to put the same protections in place for ourselves when it comes to at least trying to get our homes off of the internet. And that to me is just really an atrocity,” Klobuchar said at a recent federal judges conference.

Transparency advocates warn of the potential for adverse effects on watchdog journalism if the legislation is approved. Critics of the amendment argue that the legislation could inadvertently hamper journalists’ ability to hold officials accountable over allegations of conflicts of interest, such as those relating to investments, real estate, and spouses’ employment.

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Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress warned that the legislation would allow “corruption to flourish undetected” and that it will “chill press reporting on congressional affairs generally.”

“This provision contains serious constitutional, prudential, and implementation problems that undercut its apparent intention of addressing privacy issues regarding elected leaders and those closely associated with them,” he said.

Despite critics’ concerns, Klobuchar, who is a self-proclaimed First Amendment champion, refutes the suggestion that the removal of lawmakers’ addresses from the internet would restrain any legitimate form of journalism.

“This is for, solely for, private information that allows deranged people to show up and basically hit the speaker of the House’s husband over the head with a hammer,” Klobuchar stated, referencing the attack on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

The debate around the proposed amendment underscores the tension between privacy, security, and transparency in the digital age.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.