Senate Democrats Release Privacy Principles

The ranking members of four Senate Committees have released their principles for any privacy legislation, many of which are likely to be rejected by Republicans and many industry stakeholders (e.g. no preemptions of the “California Consumer Privacy Act” (AB 375) and a private right of action for consumers).

Nonetheless, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) agreed to these principles, and reportedly Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) convened and facilitated the effort, which has come ahead of the release of any of the privacy bills that have been under development this year in the Senate.

Of course, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had convened an informal working group late last year consisting of Cantwell, Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senators John Thune (R-SD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to hash out a privacy bill. However, like most other such efforts, the timeline for releasing bill text has been repeatedly pushed back even after Wicker and Cantwell tried working by themselves on a bill late in the summer. Additionally, Moran and Blumenthal, the chair and ranking member of the Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, have been working on a bill for some time as well but without a timeline for releasing text.

And, the efforts at this committee are in parallel to those in other committees. Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has gotten his committee onto the field with hearings on the subject and has articulated his aim to play a role in crafting a bill. Likewise, the Senate Banking Committee has held hearings and are looking to participate in the process as well. But, like Senate Commerce, no bills have been released.

Of course, it is easier to write out one’s principles than to draft legislation. And yet, the release of these desired policies elegantly puts down a marker for Senate Democrats at a time when the majority in the chamber is struggling to coalesce and release a privacy bill. The move also demonstrates cohesion among the top Democrats on four of the committees with a slice of jurisdiction over privacy and data security issues: Commerce, Banking, HELP, and Judiciary.

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