Consumer groups livid over Senate privacy hearing snub

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Consumer advocates are furious that the Senate Commerce Committee's initial witness list for its upcoming hearing on data privacy consists entirely of industry-backed groups. The panel, led by Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), announced a slate of witnesses headlined by representatives from prominent tech trade groups. A Senate staffer familiar with the committee described the Feb. 27 session as a starting point on privacy discussions that will lay the groundwork for future hearings. But privacy advocates said the snub reflected a lack of regard for consumers.

 “Senator Wicker’s initial witness lineup makes a mockery of protecting the privacy of consumers,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called it “unconscionable for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on consumer privacy and to not invite a single consumer privacy advocate to testify.” And India McKinney, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the “witnesses will not portray an accurate assessment of the current status of privacy protections.”

In 2018 the panel, then led by John Thune (R-SD), faced similar blowback from advocacy groups after convening a hearing that featured only industry representatives from companies like AT&T, Apple, Amazon and Google. After the uproar, the panel later held a second session featuring voices more critical of tech’s privacy practices, including the European Union’s top privacy official and one of the architects of California’s privacy push.

Consumer groups livid over Senate hearing snub