Two technology trade groups — whose members include Microsoft, Google and Facebook — have proposed national consumer-privacy regulations.
Two technology trade groups on Wednesday released proposals for national consumer privacy regulations, adding to the chorus of businesses seeking to influence the growing momentum for stricter rules on how companies handle users’ personal information.
The move by the internet Association, which counts Google and Facebook as members, and BSA | The Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft and Oracle, comes as Congress and the White House are mulling actions that could affect the workings of the entire digital economy.
Internet Association President Michael Beckerman said in a statement that the group’s members “understand that people’s trust in online platforms is essential to the success of the internet,” and that “continuous improvement to both products and regulation are important and necessary for a thriving internet.”
Among the six principles the internet Association endorsed on Wednesday was data portability, which would allow consumers to take their personal information from one company to another that provides a similar service.
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Data portability is backed by privacy advocates and would-be tech reformers such as Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who has raised the possibility that it could help increase competition that would rein in the companies.
The 10-point framework released by BSA | The Software Alliance, formerly known as the Business Software Alliance, would require the “affirmative express consent” from consumers for the use of sensitive data. That proposal parallels some of Europe’s new privacy rules, and exceeds the “opt out” power given to consumers by a newly passed privacy law in California.
“We need to ensure clear, consistent, and transparent privacy rules,” BSA President Victoria Espinel said in a news release. “Now is the time to modernize the law.”
Both business groups call for policies that would allow users to know whether and how companies are using personal information they provide and let them request corrections or deletions of their data in certain circumstances. The groups also support making sure any national privacy standards pre-empt state laws and place primary enforcement of such regulations in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission.
Privacy advocates, many of whom have objected to pre-emption of stricter state laws and fought against the internet Association in California, may object to the framework. Some of the proposals are less specific than policies already in place at companies such as Facebook.
“We appreciate that the industry finally acknowledges it needs legislation and regulation, and that they are at least paying lip-service to the notion that individuals deserve control, access, portability, and deletion rights in addition to transparency,” Ariel Fox Johnson, senior counsel for policy and privacy at Common Sense, an advocacy group that supported the California law, said in a statement. She added that a proposal to pre-empt states’ privacy laws is problematic.
“States are much better prepared to be nimble in the face of future threats to American consumers, families and kids,” she said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released earlier this month a set of policy positions on internet privacy, including a proposal that companies be shielded from lawsuits if they violate laws governing how they collect and use data on their customers.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing Sept. 26 on the privacy policies of top technology companies. Representatives from AT&T, Amazon, Google, Twitter and Apple are scheduled to testify.
Consumers deserve clear answers and standards on data-privacy protection,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Business groups are weighing in on privacy rules at a time when tech companies are facing greater scrutiny in Washington, D.C., over their data practices after revelations earlier this year that Cambridge Analytica, a political-consulting firm, obtained information on millions of Facebook users’ without their permission, through the maker of a personality app.