Nov 5, 2019

California lawmakers call for new privacy cop

Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren. Photos: Tom Williams/Getty Contributor; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Staff.

A pair of California Democrats want to create a new federal agency to protect U.S. consumers' privacy as part of an online privacy bill unveiled Tuesday.

The big picture: Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren said their Online Privacy Act would create a "Digital Privacy Agency," give users the right to correct and delete information, and impose new restrictions on companies' use of data. The Silicon Valley representatives are setting a high bar for federal privacy legislation amid bipartisan legislation efforts.

Details: The lawmakers contend the Federal Trade Commission is not up to policing privacy and argue the sector needs its own regulator, much like the Federal Aviation Administration or the Food and Drug Administration.

  • "While some are calling for the FTC to enforce privacy, we believe the agency is toothless and has issued the equivalent of parking tickets to companies," Eshoo said in a call with reporters.
  • The proposed Digital Privacy Agency would be an independent body run by a presidential appointee with up to 1,600 employees.

The bill also would prohibit companies from using private communications — including email — to target ads, and it would allow consumers to decide how long companies keep their data.

What's next: The lawmakers said the bill is a starting point, but one they believe sets a standard for what a digital privacy law should include.

  • "[We] thought that if the representatives from Silicon Valley took a strong stand for privacy rights, that it would be meaningful to the rest of Congress," Lofgren said. "That's why this bill is as bold as it is."

Go deeper

Senators' year-end push on privacy

After months of talks on bipartisan legislation, Senate Commerce Committee leaders have unveiled dueling privacy bills ahead of a hearing this week. But insiders believe the process might still yield a compromise both parties can embrace.

What they're saying: "Now there’s actually opportunity for serious negotiations between the different positions," said Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, which did a comparison of the two bills. "These bills have more in common than they have dividing them."

Go deeperArrowDec 3, 2019

Microsoft to apply California privacy rules to all users nationwide

Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Microsoft said in a blog post Monday that it will apply the protections of a new California privacy law for all users in the U.S. The California Consumer Privacy Act was passed last year, but goes into effect Jan. 1.

Why it matters: The law allows consumers to require companies to disclose what data they are keeping on a consumer, and gives consumers the right to have such data be deleted. Also, starting next July, Californians will be allowed to sue businesses for certain data breaches.

Go deeperArrowNov 12, 2019

Data is the new antitrust battleground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to probe whether the biggest tech companies' handling of consumer data represents an unfair form of competition.

Why it matters: Consumer data is the fuel of the digital economy and the key to tech giants' market leverage. It is also challenging antitrust regulators’ ability to investigate competition issues, because today’s antitrust laws don’t specifically address data dynamics.

Go deeperArrowNov 13, 2019