Will Congress Follow California’s Data Privacy Legislation Lead?

Beginning in 2020, California consumers will have more control and say over how Internet companies share, sell, and use their data.  Under Governor Jerry Brown, a new law slated to begin in 2020 promises that web users can demand that businesses disclose whatever personal information is collected about them and how that data is being used.  Under the new data privacy legislation, California consumers will also have the option to tell the same companies to delete that personal data.

California’s Data Privacy Legislation

The California law also seeks to strengthen privacy protection for young children online. Parents and guardians will be required to give consent before any website, online service, or mobile application may begin selling children’s user data.  Moreover, if consumers are able to demonstrate that companies failed to properly safeguard the sensitive, personal data of users, the law has provisions that allows consumers to use in case of such data breaches.

While California has been lauded for passing stricter data privacy legislation, many experts fear that the California law, as currently drafted, is too vague to be considered a good model for a national standard.  While the federal government has stated that data privacy remains one of its top priorities, very little legislation and action has been taken on the Congress floor.

State Legislation on Data Privacy

To fill the void, many states have passed their own respective privacy laws, which has made the idea of drafting a federal law that accommodates the different patchwork of state laws an even more daunting task.  Because states vary on how stringent their data privacy protection laws are, Congress must decide whether federal law will be more stringent than the strictest of state laws or more lenient in order to accommodate other state laws.

And as if this were not perplexing enough, many companies fear that, with also having to comply with the European Union’s passage of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), having to accommodate, state, federal, and foreign law will end up bankrupting business.

Where Does Congress Stand? 

While consumers continue to push lawmakers for action on data privacy legislation, the odds of getting a strong, all-encompassing consumer privacy protection law on the books by the end of this year appear to be slim.  Although Congress members on both sides of the house say that this is one of the easier bipartisan issues that both parties can agree to work on together, the complexity of the matter coupled with its potential impact on significant business revenue has continually kept Congress from swift action.

Although 2019 has only just begun, many experts worry that the current momentum behind passing data privacy legislation may fade as the nation heads into 2020’s election year.

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