There was a lot to take in from Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on privacy, and not just because lawmakers, aides, reporters and advocates packed the Senate’s illustrious Hart 216 hearing room – a location reserved for only the most prominent of hearings.
Here’s a rundown of the most revelatory soundbites to help get you up to speed:
1. “Ms. Richardson believes that the proposals I’ve outlined and Sen. Cantwell and some of her colleagues have put forward are much stronger that the California law. I agree with that.” –Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
There’s no question that the CCPA represents a significant development in the broader privacy debate. But the hearing highlighted the reality that a strong federal law is needed to truly protect consumers. We agree that proposals before the committee are in fact stronger than the California law – and that consumers nationwide need a robust law to meet the challenges of today’s digital environment.
2. “I think all of us understand, or at least should, that only a bipartisan proposal has a chance of clearing the Senate and becoming law.” –Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
The former chairman of the committee said what anyone who’s paid close attention to the privacy debate was already thinking: Lawmakers must come to consensus on a bipartisan bill. Here’s the good news: While it’s true that there are competing proposals out from Chairman Wicker and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), there’s actually a great deal of agreement between their two starting points. And Wednesday’s hearing was remarkably constructive and focused on substantive questions that will help legislators move forward.
3. “I think there’s very little doubt that a patchwork system doesn’t work very well, and I think that we can’t expect anything but a patchwork system unless we come up with a law at the federal level.” –Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Unsurprisingly, there was a good deal of conversation at the hearing about whether a federal statute should overrule state privacy laws. While some see this as a partisan issue, it was significant that Sen. Tester, a Democrat from Montana, made it abundantly clear that a single and strong federal standard is needed over a patchwork of state laws. While we agree that this is certainly the case, it’s important to recognize that by combining strong consumer protections with dual federal and state enforcement – as our framework for privacy legislation proposes – we can ensure that consumers don’t lose out on existing protections they have at the state level.
4. “I do want a law, not just a bill. A law isn’t going to happen unless it’s bipartisan.” –Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
It’s not just one side of the dais that wants a bipartisan compromise. Sen. Blumenthal, who is working on a cross-aisle privacy bill with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), also underscored the need for both parties to work together and noted that any federal law should add to the enforceable rights that consumers have.
With proposals from Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell now public, and additional bills in the House and Senate potentially to come, we’ve reached a new phase in the push towards consensus. We’re proud that our framework is part of this discussion. And with the best opportunity in years to pass comprehensive privacy legislation sitting before us, we’ll continue to beat the drum into 2020.