Hill Update: Draft National Privacy Bill Released; Judiciary Reviews Arbitration Bill


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In other news, the Senate Commerce Committee is planning a Nov. 15 hearing to review nominations for the Federal Communications Commission.

11/5/2021 7:00

National data privacy standards and legislation that would prohibit the enforcement of forced arbitration clauses in consumer, labor, antitrust, and civil rights disputes resurfaced in discussions on Capitol Hill this week.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the Control Our Data Act on Wednesday, a draft data privacy bill that would create a national privacy standard, Politico reports.

“We now share more of our personal information online than ever before. Everything from information about where we bank, what we buy at the grocery store, to where we drive, and how well we sleep,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Republican Leader for Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., in a news release. “In order to ensure that our information is protected, we need one national privacy law that supports small businesses and innovation, promotes transparency, and incentivizes solutions for data security. Guided by these principles, Energy and Commerce Republicans are building on our privacy leadership with a new framework to establish a national privacy standard.”  

Principles in the draft bill, according to the news release from the Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, include:

  • The internet does not stop at state lines, so why should one state set the standard for the rest of the country? Creating arbitrary barriers to the internet may result in different options, opportunities, and experiences online based on where you live. 
  • Lack of transparency has led to where we are today and any federal bill must ensure people understand how their information is collected, used, and shared. We must also ensure that companies who misuse personal information must be held sufficiently accountable.
  • Any federal bill must ensure companies are implementing reasonable measures to protect people’s personal information.
  • We must also protect small businesses and innovation. We know that in Europe, investments in startups are down more than 40% since their data protection and privacy law—the General Data Protection Regulation—went into effect. We must guard against a similar situation here. We want small businesses hiring coders and engineers, not lawyers. 

California—through the California Consumer Privacy Act—Colorado and Virginia, are among states with their own data privacy laws.

Politico reports the Control Our Data Act has some sticking points that have hindered privacy legislation progress at the federal level. The draft bill would not allow private citizens to sue for violations and would not allow state laws to exceed the “one national standard.”

Similar provisions are included in the Senate Commerce Committee Republicans’ SAFE DATA Act, according to the article.

The Control Our Data Act would create a Bureau of Consumer Privacy and Data Security and give the Federal Trade Commission authority to fine technology companies that misuse data, which the U.S. Supreme Court removed in a court decision earlier this year. Data brokers would also be required to register with the FTC.

Arbitration Legislation

The House Judiciary Committee met for a markup of the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act on Wednesday

H.R. 963 effectively outlaws arbitration provisions in private contracts, ACA said in a letter to members of Congress.

ACA, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and a coalition of national and state organizations, continues to urge members of Congress to oppose anti-arbitration bills.

ACA is working with the Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s Arbitration Task Force and the Arbitration Coalition to advocate against the passage of H.R. 963.

Federal Communications Commission Nominations

The Senate Commerce Committee is planning a Nov. 17 hearing to consider nominees to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, Politico reports.

The FCC will be at full capacity pending a new nomination from the Biden administration for Gigi Sohn to serve in one of the Democrat commissioner seats and Jessica Rosenworcel’s permanent approval as the chair, ACA previously reported.

If Sohn is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the FCC will have a 3-2 Democrat majority. Geoffrey Starks serves in the remaining Democrat seat on the commission.

Sohn is currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. Sohn also previously served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013-2016.

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