Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

How the U.S. got boxed in on privacy

The federal government's failure to craft a national privacy law has left it to be squeezed on the issue by the EU on one side and California on the other.

Why it matters: Companies are stuck trying to navigate the maze of EU and state laws, while legislators in Washington have no choice but to use those laws as de facto standards.


The big picture: Three years after the EU's GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) law went into effect and six months after California's strict privacy statute (the California Privacy Rights Act) became official, the U.S. is still nowhere close to passing nationwide privacy rules.

Yes, but: Any U.S. law would largely be shaped by rules set by the EU and California.

  • Businesses have already spent big to comply with these laws, and Congress would be hard pressed to pass rules that are a weaker than those the industry is already following.
  • "It lowers the required energy to pass a federal privacy law in the United States because global companies have already done most of the heavy lifting," Future of Privacy Forum senior counsel Stacey Gray told Axios. "But it also means there's a narrower world of what legislation could look like."

What's happening: California and Virginia have both passed consumer privacy laws, with Colorado's state legislature approving its own privacy bill Tuesday and sending it to the governor's desk.

  • California's law gives consumers the right to access, delete and opt out of the sale of data.
  • "Being able to opt out of sale is a uniquely California spin, and you can see the influence, it's now turning up in bills across the United States and may become part of a federal privacy law," Gray told Axios.
  • Virginia's law, which will go into effect in 2023, allows consumers to opt out of having their data used for targeted advertising, among other measures, but is viewed as more industry-friendly.

Meanwhile, in Congress, momentum for action on privacy has stalled, despite the pile-up of state and global regulations.

  • The pandemic and the new administration's proposals for addressing its fallout have taken priority.
  • Even within the tech policy world, other issues — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's China competition bill, antitrust and misinformation — have drawn lawmakers' focus.
  • "The administration and some of the relevant leaders in Congress, and chairs in the relevant committees, are going to need to make it a priority for it to happen," Samir Jain, director of policy for the Center for Democracy & Technology, told Axios.

What to watch: House consumer protection subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has said she intends to host privacy roundtables with her Republican counterpart and interested stakeholders to try to hammer out the sticking points on legislation, with a goal of passing a bill by 2022.

  • A spokesperson for ranking Republican Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) said the congressman is optimistic about reaching a bipartisan agreement on privacy, but "he is eager to learn more" about Democrats’ plans.

The bottom line: "We tend to, especially in D.C., expect things to either happen very quickly or never happen," Aaron Cooper, head of global policy for BSA, a software industry group, told Axios.

  • "The reality is getting these laws right for the constituency takes time, and we shouldn't be surprised if the process takes several years over the course of several congresses," he said.

Go deeper:

4 ffp

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories