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Digital rights groups are cautiously welcoming a bipartisan data privacy bill first reported on June 3, 2022. (Image: Getty Images)

Advocates Offer Cautious Praise of New Digital Privacy Bill in Congress

Fight for the Future's Evan Greer welcomed the legislation while warning that "we cannot allow Big Tech lobbyists and their buddies in the Senate to use this to delay a vote on antitrust bills."

Brett Wilkins

Digital rights advocates on Friday cautiously welcomed news that congressional lawmakers have agreed to advance a bipartisan, bicameral data privacy bill while reaffirming the need for antitrust legislation to truly tackle Big Tech monopoly abuses.

"To say that it's high time for real progress on a federal privacy bill would be a tremendous understatement."

The bill, entitled the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, would establish a national standard governing internet companies' collection of user data. The measure would empower users to opt out of targeted advertising and to sue companies that improperly sell their personal information. It would also ban data-driven advertisements targeting children, among other reforms.

Evan Greer, director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said that bill "seems like a good-faith effort" while implying that she will reserve judgment until after she's read the legislation.

"What we know for sure right now," she tweeted, "is that we cannot allow Big Tech lobbyists and their buddies in the Senate to use this to delay a vote on antitrust bills" S. 2992 and S. 2170, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and Open App Markets Act.

"We need to address Big Tech monopoly power AND privacy abuses," Greer asserted.

According to Politico, which first reported the deal:

The bill released Friday includes agreement between Republicans and Democrats—for the first time—on two areas that have blocked previous efforts: whether a federal privacy law can preempt state laws and whether individuals should have the right to sue companies that illegally share their data or use it in ways the law prohibits.

House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, the authors of the new privacy bill, said in a statement that, "this bipartisan and bicameral effort to produce a comprehensive data privacy framework has been years in the making, and the release of this discussion draft represents a critical milestone."

The advocacy group Free Press Action (FPA)—which along with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law released model privacy legislation in 2019—noted that "for years, civil liberties, digital rights and racial justice groups like Free Press Action have argued that data abuse disproportionately targets and impacts populations already experiencing rampant racism and discrimination in housing, banking, employment, education, and other sectors."

In a statement, FPA co-CEO Jessica J. González said that "to say that it's high time for real progress on a federal privacy bill would be a tremendous understatement."

"The country sorely needs Congress to create protections against the exploitation and discrimination caused by companies' unfettered collection, buying, selling, sharing, and outright abuse of people's most personal information," she continued.

"We've only scratched the surface in our review of the full draft released today," González added. "Based on that preliminary look we're very pleased with the structure and coverage of the bill."

Josh Golin, executive director of the advocacy group Fairplay, said that "we are pleased that many top priorities to create a safer internet for children and families are included in the draft comprehensive privacy legislation released today."

"Most notably, the bill would ban data-driven advertising to children under the age of 17," he continued. "Surveillance advertising not only allows marketers to target young people's greatest vulnerabilities, but it fuels a system that manipulates children and teens into spending too much time online and exposes them to harmful content."

"We are also glad to see additional protections for children and teens," Golin added, "including the establishment of a division of Youth Privacy and Marketing at the Federal Trade Commission. While there are areas that should be strengthened, the draft provides a good framework."

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