Time for Congress to Act on Privacy

online privacy

As Congress looks to firm up its legislative agenda for this fall and through the end of the year, it's time for action on a comprehensive federal privacy law. Earlier this week, the Business Roundtable—an association representing a broad cross section of American companies in nearly every sector of the economy—urged Congress to enact such a privacy law that establishes a new framework for today's digital economy.  

At NCTA, we (and our member companies) have been calling for Congress to act on a national data privacy framework that would codify strong and enforceable consumer protections. Last year, after the infamous two days of testimony by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which highlighted how much confusion existed about the ways in which tech giants collect and monetize our personal data, NCTA President & CEO Michael Powell wrote, "A technology-neutral, federal framework of online consumer protection is a first step to restoring America's faith in our digital future."

We reiterate this call again today. Congress should work on a bipartisan basis to advance a uniform national framework utilizing a technology-neutral approach to privacy and data security. Such a framework should enable consumers to enjoy transparency, choice, and security with respect to how their data is handled, regardless of where they are or what product or service they are using.

At the very least, federal legislation should accomplish the "3 C's" of privacy:

•    Consistency: 50 separate state laws simply won't work. To avert a fractured policy landscape in which both consumers and industries are whip-sawed by multiple and conflicting privacy regimes, Congress should adopt a balanced federal privacy framework that holds all businesses to the same standards for how consumer personal data is used, applies online and offline, and preempts state and local privacy laws. 

•    Control: A national privacy framework should empower consumers with simple ways to control the use of their personal information while also preserving opportunities for beneficial uses of data that lead to innovation, new products and capabilities, and customized services.  

•    Confidence: Consumers should know how their data is being collected and used plus know that the companies collecting data are taking reasonable physical, technical, and administrative security measures to protect personal information they collect or store.

Privacy isn't a partisan issue that should fall by the wayside in the remaining months of 2019. Congress should act on a technology neutral federal data privacy framework that protects consumers while promoting responsible data uses which foster innovation and new services.