Public Knowledge Applauds Bipartisan Privacy Efforts, Cautions Congress Must Fix FCC Authority Concerns Before Full Committee Markup

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce marked up the “American Data Privacy and Protection Act." While progress has been made, Public Knowledge calls for strengthening the bill to better protect Americans' privacy.

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce marked up the “American Data Privacy and Protection Act,” a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced by Frank Pallone, Jr., (D-NJ), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) to establish a national standard to protect consumer data privacy.

The bill would also impose restrictions on how businesses (like Facebook and Google) can collect, use, and share consumer data, as well as allow for federal, state, and individual enforcement to protect consumers’ rights. Public Knowledge urges the committee to continue strengthening this bill to ensure individuals’ privacy is protected.

The following can be attributed to Sara Collins, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“We are pleased to see the committee make such great strides in improving this bipartisan bill. Since the draft text was released, the bill’s data minimization provisions have been tightened and there is more clarity around what businesses can and cannot do with consumers’ data. This means that internet users don’t have to rely on a failed notice and consent regime for protection. 

“The continued inclusion of the civil rights and algorithmic bias provisions show that the committee takes the work of tackling digital discrimination seriously. Just this past Monday, the Department of Justice entered into a settlement with Facebook regarding the company’s algorithmic discrimination in serving housing advertisements. As algorithmic decision-making becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, a modern privacy law must address those inequities head on.

“While progress has been made, we do have concerns. The Federal Trade Commission has very minimal rulemaking authority, which means there is very little opportunity for the agency to update the rules as technology evolves. Furthermore, while this bill contains a private right of action, there are still procedural hurdles that may prevent ordinary users from exercising their rights. 

“Finally, we are disappointed to see the Federal Communications Commission, a key regulator and enforcer of consumer privacy, weakened in the bill. Unlike other sector-specific privacy laws, which the bill preserves, the FCC is being singled out for preemption. We would hate to lose the 25 years of expertise the agency has developed in this area, a point the FTC Chair underscored just this past October. 

“We look forward to working with the committee to improve the bill as it moves onto the final markup in the House.”