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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Privacy and government affairs officers from a number of the largest tech companies plan to convene in San Francisco on Wednesday to discuss how to tackle growing questions and concerns about consumer privacy online.

Why it matters: It's been a tough year for the industry on the privacy front, driven largely by Europe's new privacy regime and the media frenzy around Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

What's happening: The Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington trade group that represents major tech companies, organized an all-day meeting to jump-start the conversations.

  • Members include Facebook, Google, Apple, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, Dropbox, and others. ITI expects the meeting to be attended by companies across the industry's sectors, including hardware, software and device makers — but declined to say which companies would be there.
  • Dean Garfield, ITI CEO and president, told Axios that tech companies are aware there's a new sense of urgency around consumer privacy.
  • "My experience is that they’ve always viewed privacy as a foundational principle, but the question of how do you give meaning to it and talk about it in a way that resonates is now something that’s more pressing," he said.

Driving the news: Europe's strict and sweeping privacy rules, GDPR, went into effect last month and are already considered de-facto standards because they affect so many U.S. companies. On top of that, California lawmakers are scrambling to pass a privacy bill before a major privacy initiative ends up on the November ballot.

  • As Axios reported last week, the Trump administration is exploring possible approaches to create a framework for how companies can use and share consumers' online data.
  • ITI says its focus on privacy began before Gail Slater, the Trump advisor leading discussions on privacy, arrived at the White House, and that this process is not a direct result of those conversations.

U.S. vs EU: The U.S. has generally approached privacy rules on a sector-by-sector basis, meaning the health care industry has different privacy standards than the financial industry. Tech companies handle data according to their privacy policies and other agreements, such as the Privacy Shield between the EU and U.S. And the FTC makes sure companies stay true to their promises to consumers.

  • "Just because Europe has taken a comprehensive approach doesn't mean our different approach is deficient," Garfield said. "And just because Europe is early doesn't mean it's best or final. But we should always be thinking about how we evolve to make sure consumers have trust in our products."

Our take: It will be very difficult to get such a diverse group of companies to reach consensus about privacy, which has become incredibly complicated in the internet era, as companies with different business models want different standards. This process will extend far beyond this week's meeting.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 10 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

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