Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter.

ZDNet reports that the letter, in part, states that, “there is now widespread agreement among companies across all sectors of the economy, policymakers and consumer groups about the need for a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law that provides strong, consistent protections for American consumers.”

Because many tech companies depend on selling personal and/or device-based data to advertisers, some privacy advocates believe that the recent move is less about protecting consumer privacy and more about watering down “any meaningful user protections that may impact bottom lines.”

The Business Roundtable has devised its own “consumer privacy framework … [that] includes many of the same provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); however, in very broad terms.”

In February 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) “gave Congress the go-ahead for passing a federal Internet data privacy legislation to enhance consumer protections,” similar to the GDPR and “recommended that the FTC be placed in charge of enforcing any future user data privacy legislation.”

CNET reports that the open letter was sent to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Although neither Google nor Facebook is a member of the Business Roundtable, both companies (and Amazon) spent more than $65 million in 2018 to lobby Congress in an attempt to influence the federal privacy law.