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American Companies Push for New Privacy Legislation

American Companies Push for New Privacy Legislation

The Business Roundtable on Thursday released guidelines for consumer data privacy legislation in expectation that Congress will hold discussions on the topic in 2019.

The Business Roundtable, which represents more than 200 of America’s leading companies, was founded in 1972 to promote pro-business public policy. Members include Apple, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Oracle, Chase, and Walmart. Non-members include Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

“As technology and the digital economy have evolved so too has the regulatory landscape,” writes the organization. This includes a variety of regional laws, which together create a “disjointed user experience” and “threaten the global digital economy by restricting the flow of data across borders.” 

As outlined in the document released this week, Roundtable CEOs are calling on lawmakers to establish a comprehensive national privacy law that applies to all businesses regardless of sector or size.

Ideally, the new law would:

  • Streamline existing laws to reduce red tape 
  • Establish clear obligations regarding the collection, use, and sharing of personal data 
  • Give consumers more control over the information they provide 
  • Improve cooperation with other countries
  • Include a national standard for breach notification
  • Facilitate innovation
  • Give the FTC the necessary funding and manpower needed to enforce the new rules

“We see a real need to both protect consumers at a time when digital services and the digital economy is so important and expanding, and at the same time, make sure we’re advancing global competitiveness,” says Roundtable spokesperson Julie Sweet.

The proposal, which follows a series of massive data breaches (think Equifax, Facebook, and Marriott), puts pressure on Democratic lawmakers who have promised to crack down on tech companies’ misuse of customer data without suffocating businesses with regulation.

The framework presented by the Roundtable has many things in common with a proposal unveiled by the Trump Administration back in September.

The Administration’s proposal focuses on privacy outcomes rather than regulation and calls for a ‘risk-based’ approach that takes into account potential consumer harm from the very beginning. 

Like the Roundtable’s proposal, it calls for the harmonization of international laws, demands increased transparency from companies, and pushes to give consumers more control over their data. It also suggests making improvements to the FTC so that it can successfully enforce consumer privacy laws.

The Trump Administration’s ultimate goal here is to establish the US as a global leader in the field of consumer privacy. But doing so will require answers to tough questions – such as how much freedom to give companies and how much power to give consumers.

Author’s Note: These two proposals could represent the beginning of a movement that has a lasting impact on consumer privacy.

Our privacy has been in constant violation for a long time, and it is long past time for a solution. 

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