Republicans push to block state data privacy laws

Republicans push to block state data privacy laws
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Lawmakers were divided over how to reconcile state and federal privacy laws at the first House hearing on data privacy this year.

Members from both parties on the Energy and Commerce consumer protection subcommittee expressed the need for bipartisan legislation as Congress works toward crafting the nation's first federal privacy law.

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But the hearing also highlighted how the issue of preempting state laws could become a sticking point in negotiations.

Top House Republicans are pushing for any federal privacy legislation to wipe out states' ability to pass their own data laws, like the one passed by California last year.

Republicans say that competing state laws could hurt businesses trying to figure out how to comply with regulations.

"There are many policy areas where it makes sense for states to innovate, however the internet does not stop at the state line and neither should innovative privacy and security solutions," said Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans MORE (R-Ore.), the top Republican on the Commerce Committee. "Your privacy and security should not change depending on where you live in the United States. One state should not set the standards for the rest of the country."

Democrats, meanwhile, focused on the need for strong rules governing websites' collection and sharing of sensitive user information.

"Without a comprehensive federal privacy law, the burden has fallen completely on consumers to protect themselves and this has to end," said Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all O'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Dems push Pelosi on bill allowing federal funding of abortion | Key Republican says Dems left him out of drug pricing talks | Court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood | Trump taps acting FDA chief MORE (D-Ill.), who chairs the consumer protection subcommittee. "There should be limits on the collection of consumer data and on the use and sharing of their personal information."

Momentum has been building for a federal privacy law since last year, when Facebook was engulfed in a firestorm over revelations that the now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data on millions of users.

California last year passed a law requiring websites to offer more transparency and control to users. The tough standards from California have spurred industry groups to urge Congress to establish a single federal standard rather than a patchwork of state laws.

But privacy groups and other consumer advocates fear that a federal standard will be too watered down. They want states to be allowed to put into place tougher privacy rules if they desire.

The Senate will also be holding a data privacy hearing on Wednesday.