Like Sobel and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Berman urged the panel to examine the largely unregulated information-broker business, which has been rocked by security breaches at companies such as ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis Group.
Both companies do extensive business with the government.
ChoicePoint Inc. has acknowledged that intruders hacked into its databases and gained access to personal data.
(John Bazemore -- AP)
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"We have a moving target . . . a massive set of issues," said Berman, who sought membership on the panel but was rejected. "Privacy is being left behind."
Other witnesses noted the impact on privacy of rapid advances in technology, from surveillance cameras on street corners to biometric screening and identification.
Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III encouraged the group to reject the notion that privacy can or should be traded for security. "Then the terrorists have won," he said. Instead, he said, the question should be: "How much data are you supposed to get in the first place?"
One panel member, Richard Purcell, an industry consultant, echoed the sentiment.
"We are virtual entities inside the machine," he said. "We need to address the profound technologies . . . and perhaps back up the truck a little bit."
The chairman of the panel is Paul S. Rosenzweig, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation.