Key Dem: No appetite for consumer privacy bill

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) doesn’t see Congress moving a bill to protect consumer privacy anytime soon.

“We’re not doing that,” Lofgren said Thursday.

Since 2012, President Obama has called for a baseline consumer privacy bill.

Earlier this year, the administration renewed those calls for legislation through its report on Big Data. 

That report — initiated after the administration faced public backlash over government surveillance practices — called on the Commerce Department to work with the private sector to develop legislative proposals.

But Lofgren said Thursday that there is no enthusiasm in Congress for such a bill at the moment.

“Do you see any appetite to do that? No,” she said.

That appetite might increase based on consumer reactions to evolving, and potentially privacy-threatening, technologies, she acknowledged.

“Consumer reaction … will shape what goes on,” she said, speaking at an event on mobile technology hosted by Politico.

For now, Congress is focused on privacy from government surveillance she said, stressing that privacy from governments and privacy from companies are different issues.

“People have an interest in privacy overall, but Yahoo can’t arrest you,” she said.

She pointed to a House vote last week that overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Defense Department’s funding bill that will require the National Security Agency to obtain a warrant before searching its databases for information about people in the United States.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who appeared on Thursday’s panel with Lofgren, also stressed the need for privacy protections for U.S. users, whose information is swept up by government surveillance programs.

Deciding to use a tech company’s product or service “doesn’t mean that you are also giving permission for the federal government to follow you and tap into your life,” Chaffetz said.