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Americans for Prosperity: It’s Time for Federal Privacy Legislation

Dec 4, 2019 by AFP

Arlington, VA – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing Wednesday examining legislative proposals to protect consumer privacy. The committee will assess how legislative proposals intend to provide consumers with more security, transparency, choice, and control over personal information both online and offline. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is supportive of federal digital privacy legislation and is urging members to adhere to 5 key principles when considering a bill.

AFP Senior Tech Policy Analyst Billy Easley issued the following statement ahead of the hearing:

“The time has come for clear federal privacy legislation that protects consumers while preserving America’s tech leadership. It’s critical that any legislation focuses on harms to consumers, avoids broad grants of rulemaking authority, and preempts state efforts to write de facto national legislation. As Congress considers legislation, they should keep in mind the importance of protecting the rights of all Americans while preserving the basic freedom to pursue technological progress. Chairman Wicker’s bill incorporates many of these important principles and is a promising first step toward reasonable data privacy standards.”

AFP’s Principles for Federal Privacy Legislation: 

  1. Privacy regulation should focus on addressing practices that injure customers, rather than on restricting the collection of data. Legislation that tells companies what data they can and cannot collect would not secure the data they do collect and would prevent companies from offering a wider array of service to customers.
  2. Legislation should maintain a clear distinction between privacy and data security, and address them separately. This is because there is a greater consensus about the end goal of data security legislation (most people generally agree that the theft of consumer information is undesirable) while less consensus exists about the end goal of privacy legislation.
  3. Data ownership is a complex issue that requires a nuanced assessment by policymakers. While it is reasonable for consumers to expect data security, such data is often the product of interactions and transactions with other people, who also have rights. Sometimes it is public data. Lawmakers must consider the rights and interests of all of these groups when developing workable, responsible and most importantly, constitutional solutions.
  4. The FTC should not be granted broad rulemaking authority. The issue of data privacy is complex — involving considerations of both security and free expression — and constantly evolving with the increasingly accelerating pace of technological progress. Providing any agency with wide rulemaking latitude could result in administrative abuses that threaten the rights of both producers and consumers, while stifling innovation.
  5. It is critical that the FTC’s authority to combat unfair and deceptive acts or practices be clarified. Specifically, legislation must specify the criteria for what constitutes an injury to a consumer’s privacy before the FTC is empowered to take on such cases. In addition, penalties, which must be sufficient to deter violations, must also be proportional to the harm caused or likely to be caused.

See Billy Easley’s full op-ed on privacy principles at Real Clear Policy.
Read Neil Chilson’s (former FTC acting chief technologist and attorney advisor) paper, When Considering Federal Privacy Legislation.