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Sen. Marco Rubio. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will introduce a privacy bill Wednesday tasking the Federal Trade Commission with recommending, and Congress with finalizing, national rules for companies like Google and Facebook.

Why it matters: Rubio's bill seems to steer clear of giving the FTC wide new authority, instead only letting the agency write rules itself if Congress fails to do so.

Details:

  • The American Data Dissemination Act would instruct the FTC to write recommendations to Congress for what privacy rules should look like for commercial services like Facebook, based on a 1974 law that created rules for federal agencies.
  • The agency will be required to find a way to exempt smaller companies from new rules.
  • If Congress failed to successfully pass a law within two years of the bill going into effect, the FTC would have the power to write rules in line with its own recommendations. Right now, the FTC can only enforce rules — not create its own.

Any rules that were created as a result of the bill would preempt certain state privacy regulations, according to a Rubio aide, fulfilling a major request from industry groups.

What he's saying: "It is critical that we do not create a regulatory environment that entrenches big tech corporations," Rubio said in a statement. "Congress must act, but it is even more important that Congress act responsibly to create a transparent, digital environment that maximizes consumer welfare over corporate welfare."

Yes, but: Congressional Democrats have indicated that they will only agree to preempt state laws — like new rules going into effect in California in 2020 — in exchange for national rules with teeth. Without full FTC rule-making authority, Rubio's proposal may not fit that bill for some privacy-minded Democrats.

  • The bill is launching without any cosponsors, the Rubio aide said.

What's next: More privacy proposals from Rubio's colleagues, including one from a bipartisan group of senators that includes the chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee.

Go deeper

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — considered the world's largest by volume. Park officials wrapped the trees in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. And officials said early Sunday protection efforts appeared to be working.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
7 hours ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.