- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2022

A bill to safeguard the privacy of Americans’ data is gaining momentum in the House but faces much steeper challenges in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are not supporting the bipartisan proposal. 

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act intends to minimize the collection of people’s data, create protections for Americans against discriminatory use of their data, and give people the ability to turn off targeted ads online, among other things. 

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee is reviewing the legislation on Thursday, though the Senate Commerce Committee’s Democratic chairwoman has suggested lawmakers are wasting their time. 

Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, has not endorsed the bill and indicated Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer will not do so either. 

“Chuck Schumer has already said there’s no way they’re bringing that bill up in the Senate, so they can come back to the table on something strong,” Ms. Cantwell told The Washington Post on Wednesday. 

The bill, which was unveiled this month, was years in the making, according to the bill’s authors, Reps. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican. 

Mr. Pallone and Ms. Rodgers represent the bipartisan leadership of the House committee marking up the privacy bill on Thursday. 

The subcommittee on consumer protection and commerce forwarded the bill to the full committee for review via a voice vote on Thursday.  Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, said she remains hopeful that the bill will win Senate support. 

“This bill is not perfect yet, though it’s well on its way, but I want to make sure that we have the philosophy going forward that we’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Ms. Schakowsky said at Thursday’s mark-up meeting. “And we are going to work diligently over the next short time, I hope, to make a bill that is going to not only be passed by the House of Representatives but also by the Senate and signed into law by the President of the United States.” 

Senate Democrats still have concerns. Ms. Cantwell cited problems with enforcement and concerns about the privacy bill’s preempting states with a weaker federal standard.

Mr. Pallone defended the bill’s provisions, writing in a memo ahead of Thursday’s review that the Federal Trade Commission is the regulator charged with enforcing the law. The bill would create a new FTC privacy bureau to be fully operational within a year of passage.

“The legislation provides three means of enforcement — the FTC, state attorneys general and state privacy authorities, and a private right of action,” Mr. Pallone wrote in the memo. “The FTC may obtain civil penalties for all violations of the act. State attorneys general and privacy authorities may bring cases pertaining to violations of the act in federal court for injunctive relief; to obtain damages, penalties, restitution or other compensation; and to obtain reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs.”

The proposal also takes aim at the algorithms sorting through people’s data. Mr. Pallone wrote that the bill would require data-holders to submit annual algorithmic impact assessments describing the design of the algorithms, the data used, and steps to mitigate harm, among other things.

Mr. Pallone said citizen lawsuits and bigfooting state laws have been the most difficult issues to negotiate for the last decade. He said they made progress before Thursday’s meeting but more time is needed to finalize changes.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at [email protected].

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