By Zach Lilly
The Washington Legislature in Olympia is out of session for 2022, and it has yet again failed to reach consensus on a data privacy standard. Even if they are successful next year, adding another state privacy law into an increasingly complex regulatory structure for privacy won’t clear up the rules of the road.
Americans need a national data privacy law. As foreign regulators and states continue to create a patchwork of approaches, Americans are unprotected and our nation’s innovators are scrambling to comply with an increasingly burdensome regime. A single national data privacy standard will provide the certainty and protection consumers and industry both want. In fact, constituents of all backgrounds say that privacy is their leading concern regarding the digital future.
Come 2023, Washington may be in the best position to deliver on the data privacy law that Americans have been asking for. Washington is home to both the world’s most innovative tech companies and some of the most impactful technology-focused federal lawmakers. The Commerce Committees in both the House and Senate will likely be led by Washingtonians – Rep.Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen.Maria Cantwell – who will be key in advancing successful privacy efforts in the new Congress.
Under Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers, the House Energy & Commerce committee Republicans released a privacy framework. McMorris Rodgers has even empowered her members to take ownership of different elements of the legislation, infusing a promising optimism that will only increase the likelihood of its broad support and passage in the House should she take the gavel after the midterm.
The McMorris Rodgers privacy framework is a strong and promising entry point as members continue their deliberations. It recognizes that privacy cannot be siloed state by state, must be paired with robust cybersecurity, should be transparent to build public trust, and should apply to all data collectors –something no state privacy bill has done.
On the Senate side, Senate Commerce Chair Cantwell has worked extensively with her Republican counterpart Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., to create a bipartisan data privacy bill. But political sticking points have held up the group’s efforts. In general, Republicans and Democrats vehemently disagree on how easy it should be to bring private lawsuits and if the federal bill should supersede any state legislation. While these differences are tricky, they are not insurmountable.
Members of Congress from both parties have been particularly focused on responding to America’s technology sector – driving antitrust and content moderation proposals. Those approaches, however, have resulted in fundamental ideological rifts between Republicans and Democrats.
Data privacy rises above politics to bind the parties and their voters. That’s why federal privacy legislation could gain real traction, instead of draining valuable time on issues with no consensus.
The Washington Congressional delegation has a strong history of bipartisan success. McMorris Rodgers and Cantwell have laid the groundwork and now stand to reap the reward on behalf of every American. However the election shakes out, they both have staked out positions as data privacy leaders and will continue to be important voices shaping the debate. Regardless of your partisan affiliation, you should wish them luck. We will all be better off for their success.
Zach Lilly is the deputy director of State and Federal Affairs at NetChoice, a trade association, in Washington, D.C. He has also served in the executive branch and as a policy adviser to former Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. He was born and raised in Western Washington and attended Gonzaga University.