Lawmakers unveil bipartisan proposal for new data privacy law, challenges loom

Two Republican lawmakers and one House Democrat said Friday they have developed a draft data privacy proposal after years of work, and they are beginning to court their colleagues’ support.

But the absence of any Senate Democratic authors signals the bill will face challenges enlisting the upper chamber’s liberals.

Reps. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, joined with Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, to develop the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. The trio labeled the bill a “landmark agreement” representing “years of good faith efforts” by Congress and outside stakeholders.  

“In the coming weeks, we will be working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build support and finalize this standard to give Americans more control over their personal data,” the trio said in a statement. “We welcome and encourage all of our colleagues to join us in this effort to enable meaningful privacy protections for Americans and provide businesses with operational certainty.”

The authors said the bill intends to give consumers the ability to turn off targeted ads online, minimize the collection of people’s data, and grant protections for Americans against discriminatory use of their data, among other things.

Noticeably absent from the authors’ roll-out is Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on which Mr. Wicker is the top-ranking Republican. Mr. Pallone and Ms. Rodgers are the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ms. Cantwell’s office did not respond to request for comment regarding the new data privacy proposal. Earlier this week, she told The Washington Post that she agreed with Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, who had urged the leaders of the commerce committees not to settle for a framework that results in more policies for people to read and does not mean much change for consumers.

While the midterm elections may make gathering bipartisan momentum difficult, the three lawmakers insisted it’s the right time to mount a new push for a federal data privacy law.

“This bill strikes a meaningful balance on issues that are critical to moving comprehensive data privacy legislation through Congress, including the development of a uniform, national data privacy framework, the creation of a robust set of consumers’ data privacy rights, and appropriate enforcement mechanisms,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We believe strongly that this standard represents the best opportunity to pass a federal data privacy law in decades, and we look forward to continuing to work together to get this bill finalized and signed into law soon.”

The International Association for Privacy Professionals’ Cobun Zweifel-Keegan wrote this week that the timing is important because Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, is poised to succeed Mr. Wicker’s leadership on the Commerce Committee after the November elections. Mr. Cruz may choose a different path.

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