Big Tech Crackdown Coming As Lawmakers Push New Bill

( By a vote of 53 to 2, the House Energy and Commerce Committee last Wednesday advanced legislation that would create the first US privacy law directed at limiting what kind of personal information companies like Google or Facebook can collect online.

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act is the latest in a series of bills Congress has attempted to pass but failed, often over concerns that federal legislation may preempt similar state laws that are often stronger and include language that allows individuals to sue tech companies for privacy violations.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee hailed the vote, arguing that Americans need more control over their personal information online. She said the bill includes “the most robust privacy protections to date in the United States.”

However, California Democrat lawmakers on the committee expressed concerns that the federal bill may undermine the protections in California’s data privacy law. The two members voting against advancing the bill were California Democrats Anna Eshoo and Nanette Diaz Barragán.

Another California committee member, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, voted to advance the bill forward to continue debate but said she would not vote for the current bill without additional amendments added.

The bill would create a national standard on privacy protection to replace the patchwork of state laws currently in place. Republican lawmakers pushed for one standard arguing that businesses would have difficulty complying with different standards set by different state laws.

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act would give users the ability to sue if tech companies violate the law through a private right of action. This version of the bill allows private enforcement to begin two years after the law goes into effect, rather than the four years initially proposed.

While the bill has advanced out of committee, it still faces a full House vote. Given the amount of money tech groups spend lobbying Congress, there is no guarantee that it will pass.

Two tech trade groups wasted no time blasting the legislation, issuing statements criticizing the bill within minutes of the committee’s vote.