TR Daily Consumer Groups Seek Role in Senate Tech Privacy Effort
Friday, July 19, 2019

Consumer Groups Seek Role in Senate Tech Privacy Effort

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and 10 other consumer and privacy advocacy groups offered their assistance today to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) in the work of the Senate Tech Task Force, urging her to “pursue an open and inclusive process that ensures that meetings are held in public, that a record is established, and that the voices of consumers are heard.”

In a press release, the groups noted that the Tech Task Force being led by Sen. Blackburn at the request of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) met in private yesterday.

In a press release late yesterday, Sen. Blackburn announced the task force had met for the first time that day, and that its aim is “to tackle tech industry issues on privacy, data security, censorship, antitrust and competition.” She noted that Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) is co-chairing the task force.

At the meeting, the task force heard from Snap, Inc., Chief Privacy Officer Katherine Tassi, Match Global Head of Privacy Idriss Kechida, Salesforce Global Privacy Officer and Executive Vice President Lindsey Finch, and Mozilla Head-Americas Policy Heather West. “This bipartisan group is working to build an institutional knowledge about the technological privacy issues we face in 2019 and how to address them. I’m looking forward to holding our next meeting in the coming weeks, when we will discuss the online climate of competition for companies big and small,” Sen. Blackburn said.

The consumer and privacy groups said in their letter to Sen. Blackburn, dated today, “The United States needs comprehensive, baseline federal legislation. The focus should be limits on the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data. Companies should be held accountable when they choose to collect personal data. And innovation will emerge as companies develop new business practices that are less dependent on the gathering of our data.”

They added, “The United States also needs an independent data protection agency. As you and others have said, the Federal Trade Commission has simply failed in this role. The evidence was provided by the market’s response to the recently leaked FTC ‘enforcement’ action — Facebook’s stock shot up because investigators recognized that the Commission would not block Facebook’s efforts to integrate the messaging services WhatsApp and Instagram. Many of us warned that FTC not to approve those mergers, but the Commission has not only failed to provide necessary privacy safeguards for consumers it has enabled industry consolidation. And when it had the opportunity to undo the damage, the Commission looked the other way.”

Joining EPIC in the letter were the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Defending Rights & Dissent, the Government Accountability Project, Knowledge Ecology International, Patient Privacy Rights, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and Privacy Times. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress Privacy

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