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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

Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Trump confidante Matt Schlapp interviews Jared Kushner last February. Schlapp is seeking a pardon for a biotech executive. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.

GOP plots payback for deplatforming Trump

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Capitol Hill conservatives are gaming out a multi-front war on the tech industry as retribution for deplatforming President Trump and others on the right, congressional sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: When you're in the minority, you figure out who you are as a party. With Republicans now looking up at the Democrats, they're searching for a unifying issue. This is one, at least for now.

Republicans ignore McCarthy and name-drop anyway

Rep. Liz Cheney speaks as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy watches. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc via Getty Images

Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence.

Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.

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