WASHINGTON. A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders announced broad agreement to establish online privacy rights for Americans, a major step forward for long-delayed legislation.
The legislation would impose tough new restrictions on how tech companies can collect and use consumer data. One powerful lawmaker who did not sign on to the framework announced Friday is Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee. It is pursuing similar legislation that would give consumers more freedom to sue for infringement.
The provision faces an uphill battle from Republican lawmakers because of business concerns about the potential to encourage litigation, people familiar with the matter said.
The two events will also differ in several other ways. For example, the bipartisan approach would impose relatively fewer restrictions than Senator Cantwell’s bill on the use of mandatory arbitration to resolve privacy disputes, although it would prohibit it for minors.
The two bills would also differ in the specifics of the restrictions they would impose on the collection and use of data.
The competing measures signal growing interest among lawmakers in addressing online privacy concerns after a series of controversies over how people’s information is used.
The debate followed a period of negotiations between the so-called “four parties” of the House and Senate Commerce Committees — the Democratic chairmen and Republicans on the panels.
In addition to Sen. Cantwell, they include Rep. Frank Pallone (D., New Jersey), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R., Wash.), his Republican colleague, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee.
Representatives Pallone, McMorris Rogers and Sen. Wicker supported the proposal released Friday.
The emerging split may prove to be temporary, and supporters of the bipartisan project hope that Senator Cantwell can be brought on board. For her part, Senator Cantwell has made it clear that she may try to push her version.
But it’s also possible that, despite progress in privacy legislation in recent weeks, the effort is once again doomed.
The United States is surprisingly lacking in comprehensive online privacy legislation. Consumer advocates and some members of Congress have pushed for such legislation for at least 20 years, but have struggled to overcome business opposition.
Recently, even some big tech companies have begun actively pushing for privacy legislation, worried that states are starting to adopt their own approaches.
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Published in the June 4, 2022 print edition under the title Privacy bill gets bipartisan support.