Senate, House Data Privacy Hearings Zero in on Preemption

March 01, 2019

Preemption of state privacy laws emerged as the fulcrum of any federal legislative action on the issue during House and Senate privacy hearings this week, which focused on consumer data, with virtually no mention of HR data.
 
“You have to convince us that you want something more than preemption in this area,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “We have a trust gap that we need to bridge.”  Republicans in both hearings pointed to the costs associated with patchworks of different state laws.  
 
The Senate panelists urged a strong federal law, all agreeing that the California law should at least be a floor.  Two-thirds of them, including tech and telecom groups, advocated going further. 
 
Similar lines were drawn in the House hearing, with Republicans and business groups pointing to the benefits of federal preemption.  "Your privacy and security should not change depending on where you live in the United States," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).  "One state should not set the standard for the rest of the country."
 
“There are legitimate and beneficial reasons for companies to use personal information,” said House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), “but data collection must come with responsibilities.” 
 
Looking ahead: A bipartisan bill coauthored by Senate Commerce Committee leadership is likely to be introduced in the coming weeks.  If congressional Democrats are willing to negotiate, preemption may be the bargaining chip that purchases a particularly robust measure, possibly along the lines of the California Consumer Privacy Act.