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Congress will grill Google today, but don’t expect privacy legislation before 2020

Congress will grill Google today, but don’t expect privacy legislation before 2020
[Photo: Flickr user Phil Roeder]

Every month or so there seems to be a new Congressional hearing where lawmakers barrage technology executives (or their surrogates) with questions about privacy and user trust. This seems like a step in the right direction, given that a little over a year ago the issue of data and trust was something only the most tech savvy would take up. But even with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, and others being forced to answer questions about the opaque digital platforms they created, it’s becoming clear that no real regulatory change is on the horizon.

This morning, Politico reported that senators are not expecting any new privacy legislation to be introduced this year–and likely not until 2020. Though lawmakers are beginning to craft their own proposals–including Republican Senator John Thune–it’s extremely unlikely anything will be passed, or even brought to a vote, in the coming year. Democrat Brian Schatz said that the “hard deadline” would be 2020.

This comes as more hearings on the subject are on the horizon. In fact, Google is testifying today at a hearing about consumer privacy. Yet despite all these moves, some perspectives have yet to be heard. For instance, advocacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation haven’t received congressional invitations to provide expert perspective–even as some senators float the idea of a new federal law that would preempt state-level ones. Thune has said that he plans to invite these groups to testify in the future.

What this all means, essentially, is that there’s a long road ahead for new privacy legislation. And given that only the big technology companies have been given a platform to speak, it’s likely the new rules will lean in their favor.

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