Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Consumer Privacy

This was the first in a series of hearings on consumer data privacy and security.

September 30, 2021

Phone with Security Data

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing on “Protecting Consumer Privacy” to examine how to better safeguard consumer privacy rights, including providing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with resources it needs to protect consumer privacy through the creation of a privacy bureau and the need for a comprehensive federal privacy law.

The four witnesses who testified were mainly former FTC commissioners or staff who now represent various interests in the privacy debate, along with one private sector witness from the App Association.

In advance of the hearing, the Main Street Privacy Coalition (MSPC) submitted comments to be entered into the hearing record to the committee outlining its call for federal privacy legislation and the key elements that should be included in a federal law.

NACS is a founding member of the MSPC and has been advocating for federal consumer privacy legislation that protects consumers and ensures that all business entities have responsibilities to protect consumers’ data with no exemptions for certain business sectors. Past legislative proposals have carved out some key stakeholders, such as the financial services and telecommunications industries.

While both Democrats and Republicans on the committee have stated the need for federal consumer privacy law, the same disagreement on two key issues remains—whether or not federal privacy legislation should pre-empt state privacy laws and whether individuals should be able to sue companies for privacy violations.

Recent action in Congress on privacy has focused on Democrats’ attempt to create a privacy and data security bureau at the FTC. Senator Maria Cantwell, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, supports this idea, and House Democrats have been trying to add $1 billion for such bureau as part of the multi-trillion-dollar social infrastructure package.

Yesterday’s hearing was the first in a series of privacy-related hearings that the Senate Commerce Committee will be holding this fall. The committee will be holding a hearing next week on data security and it has invited FTC Chair Lina Kahn to testify next month and share how the FTC would implement a privacy bureau.