Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Privacy policies have been the standard approach to online privacy for the entire existence of the commercial internet. Now key Democrats are souring on them.

Why it matters: Moving away from relying on the so-called "notice and consent" requirements would be a sea change for users and could put the United States at odds with Europe's sweeping privacy regulation.

How it works: Internet users experience "notice and consent" daily:

  • They sign up for a service and are presented with a privacy policy. That's the notice.
  • Then they offer their consent by clicking on "I agree," whether they've read the document or not.

Democrats say that system just isn't enough anymore.

  • House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said at a hearing last week that we "can no longer rely on a 'notice and consent' system built on such unrealistic and unfair foundations."
  • “We need to find solutions that take the burden off the consumer and put some responsibilities on those who want our data,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the consumer protection subcommittee of the panel.

Driving the news: Consumers don't read privacy policies before consenting to data collection — yet they're bringing more and more connected devices into their lives.

  • "Ten years from now, your toaster’s going to be connected to the internet. Your keys are going to be connected to the internet," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) at the Commerce Committee hearing. The current system would then leave consumers with "hundreds of microdecisions every day that you’re supposed to achieve informed consent about," he said.
  • More than half of American adults usually or always agree to online privacy policies without reading them first, according to a recent Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

While lawmakers are unlikely to abandon the notice and consent framework entirely, they're saying it needs to be bolstered by more explicit prescriptions for how services can collect, use and store consumer data.

  • They could lay out prohibitions in a new law, or give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to make rules and guide them in the direction of the type of conduct they wanted to prohibit.
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) just introduced a bill requiring the FTC to approve regulations guaranteeing that "data collection, processing, storage, and disclosure practices may not be for purposes that result in discrimination" against an individual based on "race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religious belief, or political affiliation."
  • Schatz has also proposed a bill that would put new, broad obligations on companies to safely use consumer data, arguing that the current regime doesn't do enough to police the way companies use the data once they've received the consent to collect it.

Yes, but: Some conservatives say lawmakers shouldn't be too prescriptive in regulating privacy, or give regulators new broad authority to make their own rules.

  • Europe is also heavily invested in the notice and consent approach, which forms the backbone of the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect last year and has become the de facto global standard.

What they're saying: "The apparent congressional shift away from notice and consent is important," said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group who noted the trend in a note last week. "Replacing that with categories of data practices that are simply off limits for companies could be a major change."

Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Primary races to watch in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington

Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Primary elections on Tuesday in fives states see crowded fields of both Republicans and Democrats hoping to make the ballot in 2020.

What to watch: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is "fighting for her political life" in a tight primary race against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who Tlaib beat by 900 votes in 2018, The New York Times writes. Senate Republicans are also watching the primary race in Kansas to see who could replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 18,448,084 — Total deaths: 698,023 — Total recoveries — 11,048,174Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 4,765,170 — Total deaths: 156,668 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. States: New York City health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response — Local governments go to war over schools.
  4. Public health: 59% of Americans support nationwide 2-week stay-at-home order in NPR poll.
  5. Politics: Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery Republicans push to expand small business loan program.
  6. Sports: Indy 500 to be held without fansRafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open.
Updated 4 hours ago - World

At least 50 killed, 3,000 injured after massive explosion rocks Beirut

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion has slammed central Beirut, Lebanon, damaging buildings as far as several miles away and injuring scores of people.

Driving the news: Lebanon's health minister said in televised remarks that more than 50 people have been killed and over 3,000 injured. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for the past six years, per NBC.