House Privacy Hearing Shows Representatives United on Privacy, Divided on Details

The House Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing on privacy showcased both the bipartisan call for federal legislation and the reason a bipartisan bill will be no slam dunk. Republican representatives talked about privacy, but also about the need to protect small businesses, the targeted-ad based internet economy, and talked up the wisdom of preempting state attempts to regulate privacy that veer into the feds lane. House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) said that privacy means different things to different people, but that both sides should be able to agree that any bill needs 1) improved transparency and accountability, 2) to protect innovation and small business (don't overregulate), and 3) to set a national standard (which means preempt state efforts over what is an interstate service).

Democratic representatives talked more about the need to shift the focus from protecting businesses, large or small, to protecting consumers, and they have issues with preempting states unless the bipartisan bill has sufficient teeth to make those bills unnecessary. “Without a comprehensive federal privacy law,” said Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), “the burden has fallen completely on consumers to protect themselves, and this has to end.” Democratic representatives pledged to grill tech companies, shine a harsher light on their missteps, and write tough federal laws. “We’ve been talking about it for years, yet nothing has been done to address the problem,” said House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ). “It’s time that we move past the old model that protects the companies using our data and not the people.” Democratic representatives also promised to initiate probes to study social media sites, their approach to abusive content online, and the ways these companies affect competition and consumers.

House United on Privacy, Still Divided on Details (B&C) Democrats vow Congress will ‘assert itself’ against tech — starting with Silicon Valley’s privacy practices (Washington Post) Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Era of Big Data (Hearing Page) House Lawmakers Want to Avoid a Patchwork of State Data Privacy Laws (Nextgov) Republicans push to block state data privacy laws (The Hill)