While representatives for Apple, AT\u0026amp;T, Amazon, Charter Communications, Google, and Twitter are all slated to testify at a Sept. 26 Senate hearing about safeguarding consumer data privacy, the nation\u0026#039;s leading consumer advocacy groups weren\u0026#039;t invited—and they\u0026#039;re not happy about it.\u0022The absence of consumer representatives all but ensures a narrow discussion, focused on policy alternatives favored by business groups.\u0022—advocacy groupsIn a letter (pdf) to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science \u0026amp; Transportation on Wednesday, 28 groups expressed their \u0022surprise and concern that not a single consumer representative was invited to testify\u0022 and called on committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to reconsider the witness list.\u0022The absence of consumer representatives,\u0022 the letter warns, \u0022all but ensures a narrow discussion, focused on policy alternatives favored by business groups.\u0022Signatories to the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Common Cause, the Digital Privacy Alliance, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Free Press Action Fund, and U.S. PIRG.The powerful corporations invited to testify, the public interest organizations charge, likely will not \u0022recommend baseline legislation, heightened penalties for data breaches, the end of arbitration clauses, the establishment of a privacy agency in the U.S., techniques for data minimization, or algorithmic transparency to prevent secret profiling of American consumers.\u0022\u0022How can members of the committee develop sensible solutions if they are not even aware of the full range of options?\u0022 the letter poses.\u0022While we have no objection to the participation of business groups in the Senate hearings on consumer privacy, the Senate\u0026#039;s first instinct should be to hear from the American public on these important issues,\u0022 it concludes, reminding the committee leaders that the Senate \u0022is first and foremost a public institution, accountable to the people.\u0022\u0022[Tech firms] know policymakers are considering new privacy protections, and are likely to view this hearing as a chance to encourage Congress to adopt the weakest privacy protections possible—and eviscerate stronger state protections at the same time.\u0022—EFFRecent polling shows the people want tougher rules for major tech and internet firms. Pew found in June that the majority of Americans \u0022believe these companies should be regulated more than they are\u0026nbsp;now.\u0022Consumer advocates worry that industry representatives will not only leave out key proposals to protect privacy, but also actively discourage lawmakers from adopting stricter policies to serve the public interest.\u0022Some of these companies have spent heavily to oppose consumer privacy legislation and have never supported consumer privacy laws,\u0022 the Electronic Frontier Foundation—one of the letter\u0026#039;s signees—notes in blog post. \u0022They know policymakers are considering new privacy protections, and are likely to view this hearing as a chance to encourage Congress to adopt the weakest privacy protections possible—and eviscerate stronger state protections at the same time.\u0022EFF also emphasizes that \u0022when this Congress has taken action on privacy hazards, whether from the government or from corporations, it has pro-actively stripped us of our privacy protections,\u0022 suggesting that \u0022internet users should wonder whether the upcoming Senate Commerce hearing is just a prelude to yet another rollback of privacy protections.\u0022Thune claimed in a statement that the purpose of the hearing is to \u0022provide leading technology companies and internet service providers an opportunity to explain their approaches to privacy, how they plan to address new requirements from the European Union and California, and what Congress can do to promote clear privacy expectations without hurting innovation.\u0022\u0022Beyond that, it\u0026#039;s not clear exactly what the point of the hearing is,\u0022 TechCrunch reported when it was announced last week. This will be the second committee hearing this year to focus on consumer data privacy, following Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg\u0026#039;s April testimony. Facebook, as TechCrunch points out, is \u0022noticeably absent\u0022 from the tentative witness list for Sept. 26.