Pelosi in a bind as California leaders object to federal privacy bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faces a predicament on data privacy.
House lawmakers are forging ahead with a watershed federal privacy bill that has drawn broad bipartisan support in Washington. But it has faced loud objections from a slew of officials in California who say it would undermine the state’s own data protections.
Now, as proponents push for the full House to vote on the measure, the chamber’s highest ranking Californian will need to decide whether to try to reconcile those differences — and risk tanking talks altogether.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced legislation to minimize how much personal information companies can collect from users, marking the first time a congressional panel has advanced a so-called comprehensive consumer privacy bill.
Lawmakers approved the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, H.R.8152, in a resounding 53-2 vote. But notably two of the panel’s seven California Democrats, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Nanette Barragán, opposed it and several others said they could not yet back it on the floor.
“California has the best privacy protections in the country. … I’m concerned that the bill before us would threaten California’s privacy rights and protections,” Eshoo said during the markup, adding that the measure would override most state privacy laws.
“By foreclosing California’s ability to act, I believe you are doing my state and the country a profound disservice,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who voted to advance the bill out of committee but said she could not back it on the House floor without “additional changes.”
Spokespeople for Pelosi did not return multiple requests for comment on the bill.
But when I asked Pelosi’s office about the issue more broadly in 2019, an aide said she “wants a privacy bill that will put consumers nationwide back in control of their information,” and cautioned that the role of states “as policy innovator and law enforcer must be respected.”
Pelosi isn’t just facing pressure from members of her congressional delegation.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told congressional leaders in a letter last week that he has “significant concerns” that the federal privacy bill “would undermine California’s comprehensive consumer privacy protections.” Newsom has taken the issue up directly with Pelosi, spokesperson Daniel Lopez told The Technology 202.
- The California Privacy Protection Agency, which oversees the state’s privacy laws, said in a memo that congressional efforts to extend privacy protections nationwide “would come at the expense of Californians’ rights,” as Bloomberg Government first reported.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) led a letter with nine other state AGs urging congressional leaders to pass a law that would “continue to allow the states to innovate to regulate data privacy.”
- State legislators are sounding the alarm, too. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D), who is leading efforts in California to boost protections for kids online, urged Congress to reject proposals that would override children’s privacy laws at the state level.
Pelosi could push to secure more concessions for her home state ahead of any floor vote, but many Democrats and Republicans may balk at the prospect.
Republicans have long insisted that any bipartisan privacy bill must override state laws to avoid a patchwork of protections, and Democratic leaders warned last week that weakening their proposal’s preemption language would blow up negotiations.
When Eshoo offered an amendment to the bill that would have allowed states to pass their own laws expanding on the federal protections, all of the panel’s California Democrats backed it. But it was overwhelmingly shot down, with committee leaders warning it could upend talks.
“I’m not saying that what Ms. Eshoo wants to do is not inherently … a good idea, but it’s going to definitely kill this bill,” chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in opposing the move.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) called the amendment a “poison pill.” She added, “The only way a bill will get passed is if there is a compromise on the issue of preemption.”
Some privacy and civil rights advocates argue the federal bill is significantly stronger than California’s privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, as we reported.
And with the bill passing with near-unanimous support, it will likely be difficult for California members to secure significant changes. But it remains to be seen if Pelosi will join them in their push, which could be a wild card in the negotiations.
Advocates urge Senate to advance children’s privacy, safety bills
More than 100 advocacy groups want the Senate Commerce Committee to approve the bills at a committee meeting Wednesday, arguing that the legislation could “significantly improve young people’s well-being by transforming the digital environment for children and teens.” The groups that signed on to the letters include Fairplay, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense Media, and the Eating Disorders Coalition.
“Taken together, the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act would prevent online platforms from exploiting young users’ developmental vulnerabilities and targeting them in unfair and harmful ways,” the groups wrote.
Bill to regulate stablecoins likely delayed until September
The bipartisan bill to add rules for so-called stablecoins — cryptocurrencies pegged to currencies like the dollar — hinged on a deal between House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (N.C.), the committee’s top Republican, the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Ackerman reports. The two lawmakers weren’t able to finish their work on the bill before Wednesday, when the committee had planned to vote.
“Lawmakers and their staff had worked through the weekend trying to hammer out remaining policy issues with the legislation, which top Biden administration officials have pushed for,” Ackerman writes. “As of Monday morning, however, the bill wasn’t finished and at least some core issues remained outstanding.”
- Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen brought up concerns with the bill to Waters, and Treasury’s suggested changes of the bill made this weekend’s negotiations more difficult, Politico’s Sam Sutton reports. The bill could still be unveiled this week, but they haven’t reached an agreement in time for the Wednesday markup, Sutton reports.
Spokespeople for McHenry and Waters didn’t respond to the outlets’ requests for comment.
Cantwell holds firm in opposing bipartisan privacy proposal
Senate Commerce Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) went on offense against the American Data Privacy and Protection Act in an interview with the Spokesman-Review’s Orion Donovan-Smith. Here are some notable excerpts from the interview:
- “The problem is it’s taking the House a long time to come to reality about what strong enforcement looks like,” Cantwell told Donovan-Smith. “If you’re charitable, you call it ignorance. If you think that it’s purposeful, it literally won’t pass the House because they just won’t meet the test of what a strong federal bill looks like.”
- “Ever since I’ve been on the Commerce Committee, the big data companies have been pushing to get a weak federal bill to override strong state law,” Cantwell said. “Even those civil rights groups have been infiltrated by people who are trying to push them to support a weak bill.”
- Cantwell says she’s “considering what our next moves are” and will “look at our schedule” regarding a potential markup of the legislation.
Kylie Jenner has weighed in on Instagram’s redesign, criticizing it for “trying to be TikTok,” Bloomberg News’s Sarah Frier reports. More from Frier:
The Jenner & Kardashian sisters run businesses that rely on Instagram showing their content to those that follow them. In their shoes, I would also be annoyed with an algorithm change that prioritizes exposing people to new kinds of entertainment.
— Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) July 25, 2022
If I were a Jenner, my core concern would be that replacing feed posts of my expensive sponsored content with Reels of random origin would be bad for business. But that doesn’t tug on the heartstrings quite the same way as “Instagram should be for friends”
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) July 25, 2022
Jenner has 360 million followers on Instagram. Some context from reporter Frank Pallotta:
Biden meets CEOs, labor; backs bill to boost U.S. chips production (Reuters)
Amazon pushes back in U.S. labor board’s case over fired warehouse worker (Reuters)
Liz Truss pledges to crack down on Chinese firms like TikTok if she becomes U.K. prime minister (Bloomberg)
Instagram Faces More Allegations That It’s ‘Addictive’ and ‘Harmful’ (CNET)
Tesla raises spending plan, discloses new subpoena on Musk’s 2018 tweet (Reuters)
Russia fines Google $34 mln for breaching competition rules (Reuters)
President Joe Biden’s Zoom setup starts with a $7,000 rollable touchscreen (The Verge)
- Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) discuss semiconductor legislation at a Washington Post Live event today at 4:10 p.m.
- Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft hold earnings calls today at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
- The Senate Commerce Committee discusses children’s privacy and safety legislation Wednesday at 10 a.m.
- A House Homeland Security Committee panel holds a hearing on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s use of facial recognition technology Wednesday at 2 p.m.
- Facebook parent Meta holds an earnings call on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
- Apple and Amazon hold earnings calls on Thursday at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
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