51 major CEOs ask Congress for federal privacy law blocking state rules

51 major CEOs ask Congress for federal privacy law blocking state rules
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Fifty-one chief executives at major U.S. corporations, including Amazon, AT&T and IBM, are urging Congress to pass federal consumer privacy legislation that would block states from implementing their own regulations on data privacy.

The Business Roundtable, a coalition of major CEOs, sent a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, urging them to act quickly to pass what would be the nation’s first comprehensive privacy law.

“There is now widespread agreement among companies across all sectors of the economy, policymakers and consumer groups about the need for a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law that provides strong, consistent protections for American consumers,” the letter reads. “A federal consumer privacy law should also ensure that American companies continue to lead a globally competitive market.”

Among the chief executives signing on to the letter are Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosDorsey's exit shakes up Twitter future The dangers of anarchy in space Health risks of space tourism: Is it responsible to send humans to Mars? MORE of Amazon, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

While there is now bipartisan consensus over the need for a consumer privacy law after a string of major data scandals in recent years, there are deep divisions over what it should look like. The private sector, as Business Roundtable laid out in a legislative framework last year, largely wants Congress to pass a law that would preempt states from making their own rules and to limit consumers’ ability to take matters into their own hands through class-action lawsuits.

Privacy activists, on the other hand, want to ensure strict enforcement by beefing up federal regulators and ensuring that states and consumers are able to take action over privacy violations.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have been in talks for the past year over a potential draft privacy bill. Senate talks appear to be stalled amid reported disagreements over whether consumers should have a right to sue over privacy violations.

The push for a federal law has taken on new urgency for the business community as a tough state privacy law that California passed last year is set to take effect in 2020. Industry advocates say that if other states follow suit, companies will have a hard time navigating conflicting privacy regulations.

“We urgently need a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law to strengthen consumer trust and establish a stable policy environment in which new services and technologies can flourish within a well-understood legal and regulatory framework,” the Business Roundtable letter reads. “Innovation thrives under clearly defined and consistently applied rules.”