By Brett Neely
(Washington) - DFL Sen. Al Franken was tapped by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy today to lead the committee's new Privacy, Technology and the Law subcommittee. Franken has been a member of the Judiciary Committee since he took office in 2009. The new subcommittee will have oversight authority over laws and polices related to online privacy, according to a press release issued by Franken's office.
Franken's new subcommittee will be spending a lot of time looking at how companies such as Facebook and Google collect and use information about individuals.
"The boom of new technologies over the last several years has made it easier to keep in touch with family, organize a community and start a business," Franken said in a statement. "It has also put an unprecedented amount of personal information into the hands of large companies that are unknown and unaccountable to the American public."
Today's subcommittee assignment immerses Franken deeper into online issues.
Franken has taken a stand for so-called net neutrality rules, which would require Internet Service Providers to treat all kinds of data traveling across their networks equally. He also opposed the Federal Communications Commission's approval of the merger between cable operator Comcast and NBC Universal, in part because he's concerned the cable operator will try to drive companies like Netflix out of business.
The ranking Republican on the subcommittee will be Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and other members of the subcommittee include Chuck Schumer, D-New York, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.
Not sooner was that announcement made than Sen. Amy Klobuchar was named chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. The subcommittee is responsible for oversight over the federal court system, judicial rules and procedures, the Department of Justice grant programs, and helping eliminate government waste, fraud, and abuse.
"As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of effective oversight and the need to ensure equal justice for all Americans," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I am honored to chair the subcommittee and look forward to working with my Republican colleague Jeff Sessions to make sure we are keeping our communities safe and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the government."
In addition to chairing the Judiciary subcommittee, Klobuchar's office says she will continue to serve as chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Competiveness, and Export Promotion, which oversees innovation issues and has oversight over the Commerce Department, export promotion, and tourism issues.