Senate Commerce Committee Holds Groundbreaking Consumer Data Privacy Hearing

October 4, 2018

On September 26, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation launched the first in a series of hearings on consumer privacy and data security. AT&T, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Apple, and Charter Communications presented testimony to the Committee. A second hearing has been scheduled for October 10 on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
The most noteworthy moment in the hearing occurred immediately at the outset. Chairman John Thune (R – S.D.) opened the hearing by stating, “The question is no longer whether we need a federal law to protect consumer privacy. The question is only what shape that law should take.” This is a major shift in outlook for the Committee.

All the witnesses agreed that broader federal privacy policies are needed. Several of the witnesses emphasized that, if a new, broader comprehensive privacy law is enacted, it should include federal preemption of the numerous and growing number of state privacy laws to assure more national uniform regulation on data privacy and data security. These companies’ strong statements created further momentum behind calls for expanded federal privacy policies by the Internet Association (IA), the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Software Alliance (SA), and several other trade groups.

While there is now a growing consensus surrounding the need for broader federal law concerning consumer data privacy and data security, the devil is in the details. In the past, it has been hard enough in the U.S. to pass highly focused sector specific privacy laws (e.g., the Gramm Leach Bliley Act regulating financial information; HIPAA regulating health information; and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act [COPPA] regulating the collection of data from children under 13 years of age).

Developing a broad consensus for enactment of comprehensive federal privacy and data protection laws will be a far more challenging endeavor. Nevertheless, ANA has made privacy and data security our number one government focus, and we intend to work to examine whether sensible, more general, rules for privacy and data security for the U.S. can be developed on a reasonable timetable

We are reaching out to our members and other allied groups to accelerate this effort. We will keep reporting here on our progress.


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