Illustration by Annelise Capossela/Axios
A federal online privacy bill approved by a key House committee last month — which is bigger than any similar proposal advanced before — is still a long way from becoming law.
This is thanks to lobbying companies over details they don’t like, disagreements over whether the law should preempt state regulations, and tensions between the House and Senate.
Why it matters: The U.S. has never had a comprehensive national law governing online privacy—and likely won’t get one this year, despite concerns about companies’ appetite for personal data, a growing number of potentially conflicting state laws, and the emergence of strong privacy rules under the border
Game Status: The bipartisan American Privacy and Data Protection Act (ADPPA) was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee 53 to 2 in July, setting the stage for a possible House vote.
- The bill requires companies to minimize the collection of personal data and ban targeted advertising to children under 17.
Intrigue: Several conflicts prevent the bill from becoming law, despite its support from key bipartisan lawmakers.
California led the nation with its privacy law, and the legislators of his home state want to protect him.
- State Democrats say the federal law should set minimum national standards by which states can strengthen privacy protections. But Republicans and many companies are pushing for uniform protection across the country.
- The ADPPA preserves Illinois’ biometric privacy law and some provisions of state law, including California’s, but not enough to win the support of some California Democrats.
- “The very obvious impasse the bill is in right now is that Republicans won’t support it unless it overrides state law,” Public Knowledge Senior Policy Advisor Sarah Collins told Axios.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) has been publicly critical the bill as too weak in terms of implementation. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Cantwell holds the keys to the House bill moving through the Senate.
- Cantwell’s committee approved bills on children’s privacy and online safety last month, but she has not said she will move forward on a broader privacy bill.
Large technology companies, their trade groups and advocacy groups say they want a federal privacy law, but they are far apart on what teeth it should have.
- IBM urged lawmakers to repeal a provision that would have given consumers the ability to sue companies for violating the law, known as the private right of action.
- Companies “want a weak federal privacy bill” that prevents states from imposing stricter regulations, Electronic Frontier Foundation director of federal affairs India McKinney told Axios.
- Meanwhile, the EFF opposes the bill’s provisions that override state laws and is calling on lawmakers to change the bill.
By the numbers: More than 80% of Americans support basic provisions of the bipartisan privacy bill, according to a June Morning Consult/Politico poll.
What they say: House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (DN.J.), one of the bill’s authors, “continues to garner broad bipartisan support and incorporate feedback from members, and is committed to ensuring that comprehensive national privacy protections are signed into law,” a spokesman said. CJ. Young told Axios.
- Sen. Roger Wicker (D-Government), another sponsor and the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement to Axios that Democrats should bring the bill to a vote in the House and through their committee.
- “I hope the Democrats don’t let the American public down by inaction, because this chance may not come again.”
What’s next: Observers insist the roadblocks are not insurmountable, but there is little time left for legislation ahead of the midterms.
- “It’s getting harder as time gets shorter and politics more intense,” Cameron Carey, distinguished visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Axios.
- “We see that Congress is able to pass laws — it’s happening with climate, it’s happened with microcircuits. So don’t rule it out.”
Essence: Unless lawmakers vote on the bill before the midterm elections and possible changes in party control, it is unlikely to become law.