‘A Patchwork is Not Acceptable’: Making the Case for a National Privacy Law

It’s unusual for businesses to ask the federal government to regulate.

But with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California moving ahead with its own data privacy law, the time has come for Washington to step up, policymakers and business leaders argued at the Data Done Right event earlier this month.

“In order for us to continue to lead the world it’s important that we tackle privacy,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). “A patchwork is not acceptable, and it will start next year if Congress doesn’t act.”

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in 2018, and California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is set to take effect in 2020. Other states are eyeing their own data privacy laws.

Wondering “what the standards are from state to state” would make “it impossible for companies to operate when we all recognize that the Internet doesn’t have any boundaries,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.

Already dealing with both the California and EU laws “requires a pretty sophisticated process” to understand the data, said Angela Saverice-Rohan, Americas’ Leader for Data Privacy at EY. “Most companies are spending the majority of their time just finding the data.”

“The lack of a federal privacy law is causing a lot of angst,” she added.

The Chamber Technology and Engagement Center (C_TEC) in February developed model privacy legislation focusing on transparency, consumer control, and innovation.

“The Chamber’s model privacy legislation puts consumers in control and ensures businesses can innovate while operating with certainty and providing transparency,” said C_TEC’s Tim Day.

C_TEC has also conducted policy and public opinion research that confirms the need for a national privacy standard.

U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue recently explained the benefits Americans were receiving when innovative companies responsibly collected and using data:

Data-driven innovation is empowering Americans by expanding access to education and health care, as well as entrepreneurial and employment opportunities. It’s helping small business owners streamline their operations, farmers increase their crop yields, and medical professionals save lives.

A national data privacy standard would continue innovation to flourish, keeping the United States a technology leader.

“By establishing clear rules of the road, we can better protect individual privacy and avoid a 50-car pileup in the courtroom,” wrote Donohue.