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Drive for US Data Privacy Legislation Gains Bipartisan Support Amid Criticism

 |  June 26, 2024

An effort to establish major data privacy legislation in the United States is gaining bipartisan traction in a divided Congress. The American Privacy Rights Act, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is set to be reviewed by a House of Representatives committee on Thursday. According to Reuters, the proposed legislation faces significant opposition from both business groups and privacy advocates.

The American Privacy Rights Act aims to set a national data privacy standard that would grant individuals the right to access, delete their data held by companies, and opt out of targeted advertising. Additionally, it proposes the creation of a national data broker registry, a measure designed to enhance transparency and control over personal information.

The U.S. has lagged behind other nations in data privacy legislation, such as the European Union, whose General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect since 2018 and is widely regarded as the gold standard for data privacy, reported Reuters. 

Related: EU and US Reach Data Privacy Agreement, Ensuring Safe Data Flows

In early June, a coalition of industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and TechNet, an advocacy organization representing tech CEOs, voiced their concerns in a letter to Rodgers and Cantwell. They argued that the proposed federal legislation lacks necessary safeguards to prevent individual U.S. states from imposing additional restrictions on top of the national policy. “The key is to get a single unified national standard without enabling states to regulate on top of the national standard,” said Jordan Crenshaw, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center. He noted that the current proposal could lead to a situation where states could layer their own data privacy requirements, effectively making the federal bill a “national floor.”

Privacy advocates, however, argue the opposite. They fear that the bill could preclude states from adapting to emerging technologies with appropriate regulations. “Federal legislators are getting pushed to the table because of all this regulation that’s happening at the state level,” said Mario Trujillo, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. He expressed concern that removing state-level laws could stifle long-term regulatory responsiveness. “If you take away the state law, in 20 years there’s not going to be this groundswell of pressure,” Trujillo warned.

As the House committee prepares to review the American Privacy Rights Act, the debate underscores the challenges of balancing a unified national standard with the flexibility needed to address the evolving landscape of data privacy.

Source: Reuters