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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The federal government's failure to craft a national privacy law has left it to be squeezed on the issue by the EU on one side and California on the other.

Why it matters: Companies are stuck trying to navigate the maze of EU and state laws, while legislators in Washington have no choice but to use those laws as de facto standards.

The big picture: Three years after the EU's GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) law went into effect and six months after California's strict privacy statute (the California Privacy Rights Act) became official, the U.S. is still nowhere close to passing nationwide privacy rules.

Yes, but: Any U.S. law would largely be shaped by rules set by the EU and California.

  • Businesses have already spent big to comply with these laws, and Congress would be hard pressed to pass rules that are a weaker than those the industry is already following.
  • "It lowers the required energy to pass a federal privacy law in the United States because global companies have already done most of the heavy lifting," Future of Privacy Forum senior counsel Stacey Gray told Axios. "But it also means there's a narrower world of what legislation could look like."

What's happening: California and Virginia have both passed consumer privacy laws, with Colorado's state legislature approving its own privacy bill Tuesday and sending it to the governor's desk.

  • California's law gives consumers the right to access, delete and opt out of the sale of data.
  • "Being able to opt out of sale is a uniquely California spin, and you can see the influence, it's now turning up in bills across the United States and may become part of a federal privacy law," Gray told Axios.
  • Virginia's law, which will go into effect in 2023, allows consumers to opt out of having their data used for targeted advertising, among other measures, but is viewed as more industry-friendly.

Meanwhile, in Congress, momentum for action on privacy has stalled, despite the pile-up of state and global regulations.

  • The pandemic and the new administration's proposals for addressing its fallout have taken priority.
  • Even within the tech policy world, other issues — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's China competition bill, antitrust and misinformation — have drawn lawmakers' focus.
  • "The administration and some of the relevant leaders in Congress, and chairs in the relevant committees, are going to need to make it a priority for it to happen," Samir Jain, director of policy for the Center for Democracy & Technology, told Axios.

What to watch: House consumer protection subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has said she intends to host privacy roundtables with her Republican counterpart and interested stakeholders to try to hammer out the sticking points on legislation, with a goal of passing a bill by 2022.

  • A spokesperson for ranking Republican Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) said the congressman is optimistic about reaching a bipartisan agreement on privacy, but "he is eager to learn more" about Democrats’ plans.

The bottom line: "We tend to, especially in D.C., expect things to either happen very quickly or never happen," Aaron Cooper, head of global policy for BSA, a software industry group, told Axios.

  • "The reality is getting these laws right for the constituency takes time, and we shouldn't be surprised if the process takes several years over the course of several congresses," he said.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 17 mins ago - Science

NTSB probes deadly Alabama crash as storms lash Southeast and Midwest

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's sent a team to Alabama to help investigate a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash that killed 10 people, including nine children.

The big picture: Saturday's crash, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" in the Southeast over the weekend, per AP. Parts of the Midwest, including Indiana and Chicago, where a tornado struck late Sunday.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."