The House Energy and Commerce Committee is styling the new push for federal online privacy law as a means to hold Big Tech accountable and reveal how Americans’ information is used by data brokers.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the committee’s chairwoman, said Wednesday that lawmakers’ efforts to write new federal privacy and data security law must ensure Americans are not viewed as simply dollar signs for data brokers and Big Tech companies.
She said a new national data privacy standard is needed because people have no way to know how their data is sold and shared under the status quo.
“This isn’t acceptable,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, said at a committee hearing. “Data brokers and Big Tech’s day of operating in the dark should be over. People should trust their data is being protected.”
Ms. McMorris Rodgers’ Democratic counterpart agreed on the need for new privacy law and to use it to curb Big Tech’s behavior. Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, said federal data privacy legislation is needed urgently because of how technology companies offer people the unfair choice of exchanging personal information for digital services.
“Members of both parties talk a lot about holding Big Tech accountable,” Mr. Pallone said. “And I firmly believe that the way to do that is by adopting a strong national privacy standard that limits the excesses of Big Tech and makes the digital world safer.”
Ms. McMorris Rodgers partnered with Mr. Pallone when he chaired the committee last year and tried and failed to get privacy legislation signed into law. The duo authored the American Data Privacy and Protection Act last June with their colleagues, Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat.
Their bill intended to minimize data collection, empower people to turn off targeted ads and create a new privacy bureau within the Federal Trade Commission, among other things.
Senate Democrats rendered the effort ineffective last year, with Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, saying there was no chance Democrats would vote on the House lawmakers’ bill. Under Ms. Cantwell’s leadership in 2023, the committee has prioritized the confirmation of nominees for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission and oversight of the FAA.
House lawmakers are eager to get federal privacy legislation moving again. Mr. Pallone said Congress’ stalling has occurred while other countries have enacted rules that are governing tech’s development.
“We simply cannot go another Congress without passing comprehensive privacy legislation,” he said.
The House lawmakers hope their privacy legislation gains momentum later this month when TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appears before the committee to testify on his app’s consumer privacy and data security practices.