House group presses Google, Wal-Mart, data broker on privacy


The meeting was the first of 10 that the bipartisan Privacy Working Group, led by Reps. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnConservatives target Biden pick for New York district court Senators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai MORE (R-Tenn.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid Welch to seek Senate seat in Vermont The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Biden hails infrastructure law, talks with China's Xi MORE (D-Vt.), will hold with members of the online data industry.

Thursday’s meeting was a crash course in online privacy, Blackburn said, calling it “Privacy 101.”

The working group pressed the industry representatives on what they’re doing to educate users about data collection.

“They feel as if they’re doing some things,” Blackburn said, “but we may want to see if they can do more.”

Privacy policies that tell users how their information is collected and used are often hidden at the bottom of the page, making it “difficult for people … to find that and to read through that and understand that,” she said.

“It’s very important that there be some standards” for online collection of consumer data, because many people have concerns about online privacy based on their worst fears, Welch said.

Members of the working group are dedicated to addressing these issues but want to “create the conditions where there is some capacity for consensus” among members of Congress and members of the industry, Welch said.

The group will examine “general policies that will not impede the innovation” that depends on the collection and use of consumer data but “address privacy concerns” and create “control for the consumer,” he said.

“We can’t write the law in a proscriptive fashion.”

Blackburn added that any future legislation must be technology neutral to be flexible enough to keep up with the pace of evolving technology.

In addition to working with industry, the group will involve privacy advocates and other policymakers in the privacy realm, Blackburn said. “We need to be working with the FTC,” which has “traditionally” dealt with privacy issues, she said.

It will be “important to hear from government” entities, such as the FTC, she said.

The group had no concrete details as to when the FTC will get involved but plans to involve it at some point, Blackburn said.