Congress to Debate Sweeping Data Privacy Bill Amid State Concerns

The American Privacy Rights Act, a bipartisan data privacy bill, aims to establish national standards and enhance protections, but faces scrutiny from lawmakers concerned about empowering trial lawyers and undermining state-level regulations.

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Congress to Debate Sweeping Data Privacy Bill Amid State Concerns

Congress to Debate Sweeping Data Privacy Bill Amid State Concerns

On Wednesday, lawmakers will begin debating the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA), a comprehensive data privacy bill that could have far-reaching implications for consumers and businesses across the United States. The bipartisan legislation, unveiled over the weekend by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), aims to establish national standards for handling sensitive personal data while preempting some existing state privacy laws.

Key provisions of the APRA include allowing consumers to sue companies for privacy violations, establishing a new privacy office within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law, and providing enhanced protections against sharing abortion-related data with third parties. The bill would also require companies to minimize data collection and allow individuals to opt out of having their information sold by data brokers.

However, the APRA is already drawing scrutiny from some lawmakers who are concerned it could empower trial lawyers and strengthen big tech companies. California legislators, in particular, have opposed previous federal privacy bills that could undermine the state's own strict data protection laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Why this matters: The passage of a comprehensive federal privacy law could have significant consequences for consumers, businesses, and the growing number of states that have enacted their own data protection regulations. In the debate, it will be crucial to watch how lawmakers balance the need for national standards with the desire to preserve stronger state-level protections.

In addition to the APRA, lawmakers will also review several bills aimed at protecting children's online privacy, which advocates see as complementary to broader data protection efforts. These include the Kids Online Safety Act and the Algorithm Accountability Act of 2023, both of which seek to address concerns about the impact of social media and algorithms on young users.

The House Energy & Commerce subcommittee on innovation will hold a hearing on the APRA and other data privacy proposals on April 17. In the legislative process, stakeholders will be closely monitoring how the bill interacts with existing state laws and whether it can garner sufficient support to pass both chambers of Congress.

Key Takeaways

  • Lawmakers to debate American Privacy Rights Act, a federal data privacy bill.
  • APRA aims to establish national standards, preempt some state privacy laws.
  • Key provisions: allow consumer lawsuits, create FTC privacy office, protect abortion data.
  • APRA faces scrutiny from lawmakers concerned about empowering trial lawyers, big tech.
  • Lawmakers also reviewing bills to protect children's online privacy, address social media impact.