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 WaldenOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Here are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act 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 SchakowskyHouse Dem cites transgender grandson in voting for Equality Act Dems plan 12-hour marathon Mueller report reading at Capitol US should be producing the HIV prevention drug its research helped create 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.