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Senate, House members unveil long-stalled data privacy bill

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A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers reached an agreement on data privacy legislation on Friday, proposing a bill that would allow users to opt out of targeted ads and sue internet companies that sell their data. inappropriately.

The legislation, however, faces a steep climb to become law. Lawmakers — Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) — are still hoping to recruit more supporters, namely Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has advanced more liberal priorities for online user rights. Without his support, the bill will likely stagnate.

Still, consumer rights advocates say the proposed compromise legislation is the biggest breakthrough yet for efforts to pass a federal privacy law, which has bogged down amid partisan disagreements.

For years, Democrats and Republicans have disagreed about the extent to which federal privacy law should trump state measures, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, and whether it should give consumers the right to take their own action against offenders.

Republicans support federal preemption of state privacy laws, fearing a patchwork of standards making compliance difficult for companies, while Democrats have called for a broad private right of action to give consumers legal tools when the Government application fails.

Legislation unveiled Friday seeks to strike a compromise, including a limit on when and how users can sue internet companies, and measures that would replace most national digital privacy laws. Policy first news reported of the agreement.

But major hurdles remain to getting an agreement signed into law.

The bill is already facing headwinds from some prominent Senate Democrats. Sen. Brain Schatz (D-Hawaii), one of the key negotiators in previous Capitol Hill privacy talks, warned panel leaders in a letter Wednesday that their latest effort to pass legislation is “failing” to protect consumers. Schatz urged lawmakers to “refuse to settle for a privacy framework that will only result in more policies to read, more cookies to consent to, and no real change for consumers.”

Schatz urged panel leaders to advance a proposal that imposes a duty of care on companies to protect users’ personal data and said that if they cannot, they “should absolutely not prevent states from adopting consumer-centric online privacy reforms”. While dozens of Democrats support creating a due diligence standard for online data, Republicans largely oppose it.

In response, Cantwell said in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, “Senator Schatz is right — any strong, comprehensive privacy law must protect consumers’ personal data with a clear requirement that companies be responsible for the use of personal data. this data and must act. in the interest of consumers.

Lawmakers also face an increasingly tight deadline to strike a deal before the midterm elections. Wicker, who led talks for Senate Republicans for years, is widely expected to take over as GOP leader on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which could delay secrecy talks in the Senate committee. of commerce as new leaders enter the scene. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a combative tech critic who has focused more on targeting claims of “bias” by social media companies than on issues like data privacy, is in pass to take over from Wicker by seniority.

House Energy & Commerce Committee staffers released a draft bipartisan discussion on data privacy legislation in December 2019, but this is the first time a proposal backed by the panel leaders has received backing. bicameral support. Little public progress has been made since 2019, even as a cascade of data privacy scandals have consumed tech industry giants like Facebook and Google and infuriated lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol Hill aisle. .

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.