Home panel set to advance privateness invoice, hanging a long-awaited grand discount
Comment on this story
Happy Wednesday! If you’re tracking today’s privacy markup, buckle in for a long wait. Oh, and send tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below: Lawmakers make a new push for antitrust legislation, and Twitter notches an early win against Elon Musk. First:
House panel set to advance privacy bill, striking a long-awaited grand bargain
For years, lawmakers have avoided making tough calls about what data privacy protections Congress should give consumers and how they should be enforced. That’s finally changing.
On Wednesday, a House panel is expected to greenlight a watershed privacy bill that strikes compromises on a series of major issues that have long vexed negotiators.
It would mark the first time a consumer privacy bill has made it out of committee, a historic feat.
While the legislation is still subject to change at the markup session, the latest version unveiled Tuesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee showcases key trade-offs struck by Democrats and Republicans. Led by Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.) and ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), it is the most significant attempt ever to pass a law.
Most notably, the brokers propose a bipartisan compromise by overriding most state privacy laws, as Republicans have sought, in exchange for granting consumers a right to bring lawsuits against violators, which Democrats have called for.
The mutual concessions don’t end there. The bill includes versions of numerous Democratic asks, including civil rights protections against discriminatory uses of data, in pared-back forms more palatable to Republicans. While seen less favorably by Democratic-allied consumer advocates, they are less likely to face pushback from business groups arguing that more sweeping requirements would make compliance too burdensome.
“Everybody is coming to terms with the fact that this is going to have to be bipartisan, and nobody’s going to get everything that they want,” said Sarah Collinssenior policy counsel for consumer group Public Knowledge, which backs the bill.
The latest version includes recent changes that appear directly aimed at addressing concerns of a prominent detractor.
Senate Commerce Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), whose panel controls the bill’s fate in the upper chamber, has railed against the proposal for delaying when consumers can bring lawsuits against companies by four years. The latest version reduced it to two years. There’s also an expanded section regarding forced arbitration, a key sticking point for Cantwell.
The updated measure also expressly states that California’s newly minted enforcement agency can uphold the act, a nod to criticisms from the state’s Democratic officials.
James Czerniawskisenior policy analyst at the libertarian advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, said “you could see some concerns get raised” by Republicans over expanding the private right of action and explicitly carving out a role for California’s regulators.
Still, he said, “hashing out those details isn’t exactly always easy, but it’s a welcome sight to see them working on it all the same.”
The bill appears to address concerns by children’s privacy advocates about a loophole that could let companies dodge scrutiny for serving targeted ads to children and teens if firms didn’t know it was happening. The updated bill only applies that more-limited standard to smaller firms. Larger companies could be held accountable if they knew or should have known about it.
The latest tweaks appear to give up ground both ways.
The latest version exempts small businesses from facing lawsuits by individuals. It also makes the Federal Trade Commission the sole enforcement agency overseeing data privacy, with a few exceptions, preempting the role of the Federal Communications Commission. Republicans have long challenged the FCC’s ability to enforce privacy rules in the telecom sector.
“The American Data Privacy and Protection Act’s national standard is stronger than any state privacy law,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement to The Technology 202. “It prohibits Big Tech from tracking and exploiting people’s sensitive information for profit without their consent, protects kids , and ensures small businesses can innovate.”
The compromises didn’t just come “out of the blue,” though, Collins said. Discussions, negotiations and even major proposals on data privacy have existed for years.
“There has been a significant amount of education that’s been happening, and just a significant coalescing around the idea that we need to get this under control,” she said.
But this time, she said, congressional leaders made clear they were set on finishing the job.
“It came out of the gates very serious and it seems clear, especially from Palone and McMorris Rogers, that they want it to get something done … and that they were going to pressure people into getting stuff done, and that it was going to be a negotiation,” she said.
The negotiations aren’t over, however. The measure faces major hurdles in the Senate, and it remains to be seen whether House lawmakers have done enough to overcome them.
Lawmakers release more antitrust findings to bolster case for reform
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday published its full final report on allegations of anti-competitive conduct by the tech giants, which proponents said contained more findings that strengthened calls for antitrust legislation.
According to Politico’s Josh Sisco, “Internal documents from Google and Amazon … show new examples of how the companies favor their own products over competitors’ — adding ammunition to the push for Congress to toughen antitrust law.” And according to Bloomberg News’s Leah Nylen, a separate memo highlighted how executives of Facebook’s parent company Meta “were more worried about the threat posed by its own products” than they let on publicly.
While the panel referenced the memos when it released its report in 2020, they were released in full Tuesday. “These documents expose the problem in black and white — these platforms use their dominance to unfairly disadvantage their rivals, all at the expense of competition and consumers,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said.
The companies pushed back on the announcement. Google said the documents were “cherry-picked” and Facebook noted that the memos weren’t new, while Amazon did not return a request for comment, according to reports.
Twitter notches early win in legal battle with Musk
“A Delaware Chancery Court judge largely granted Twitter’s request for an expedited trial Tuesday, an early win for the social media company in its court battle against Elon Musk, the world’s richest man,” my colleagues Elizabeth Dwoskin other Gerrit De Vynck report.
Musk’s legal team had requested a trial in February, giving them seven months to try to compel information from the social network, potentially including data on the prevalence of bots on the site, which Musk has taken issue with. “Chancellor Catherine McCormick Approved Twitter’s appeal for an early court date, setting a five-day trial in October,” my colleague wrote.
“The reality is the delay [requested by Musk] threatens irreparable harm to the sellers and to Twitter,” McCormick said. Musk’s bid to get out of his $44 billion deal to buy the social media company is expected to be one of the most highly watched tech legal disputes in modern history.
Senate votes to advance chips bill
“A bipartisan bill subsidizing domestic semiconductor production cleared its first procedural hurdle on Tuesday in a 64-34 vote, even as the details of the legislation were still being worked out,” The Wall Street Journal’s Natalie Andrews reports.
According to the report, “The vote paves the way for a larger package that would include additional funding for scientific research. Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) said he would use the result to gauge whether there was enough Republican support for the additional funding.”
“This will be a test vote, and the outcome will decide whether the science portion of USICA is included,” Schumer said.
US senator seeks passage of Big Tech antitrust bill as time runs short (Reuters)
Apple reaches $50 mln settlement over defective MacBook keyboards (Reuters)
UK won’t ban video game loot boxes following 2-year inquiry (Jonathan Lee)
Netflix Loses Nearly 1 Million Subscribers, Vows Rebound (Wall Street Journal)
Blizzard Albany, formerly Vicarious Visions, announces unionization bid (Shannon Liao)
A company called Meta is suing Meta for naming itself Meta (The Verge)
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a markup on data privacy legislation today at 9:45 am
- The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing to consider President Biden’s nomination of Arati Prabhakar to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy today at 10 am
- Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr discusses broadband grants at an American Enterprise Institute event Thursday at 10 am
That‘s all for today — thank you so much for joining us! Make sure to tell others to subscribe to the Technology 202 here. Get in touch with tips, feedback or greetings on Twitter or e-mail.