Americans Deserve More Than the Current American Privacy Rights Act

Deeplinks 2024-04-16


EFF is concerned that a new federal bill would freeze consumer data privacy protections in place, by preempting existing state laws and preventing states from creating stronger protections in the future. Federal law should be the floor on which states can build, not a ceiling. We also urge the authors of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) to strengthen other portions of the bill. It should be easier to sue companies that violate our rights. The bill should limit sharing with the government and expand the definition of sensitive data. And it should narrow exceptions that allow companies to exploit our biometric information, our so-called “de-identified” data, and our data obtained in corporate “loyalty” schemes. Despite our concerns with the APRA bill, we are glad Congress is pivoting the debate to a privacy-first approach to online regulation. Reining in companies’ massive collection, misuse, and transfer of everyone’s personal data should be the unifying goal of those who care about the internet. This debate has been absent at the federal level in the past year, giving breathing room to flawed bills that focus on censorship and content blocking, rather than privacy.

In general, the APRA would require companies to minimize their processing of personal data to what is necessary, proportionate, and limited to certain enumerated purposes. It would specifically require opt-in consent for the transfer of sensitive data, and most processing of biometric and genetic data. It would also give consumers the right to access, correct, delete, and export their data. And it would allow consumers to universally opt-out of the collection of their personal data from brokers, using a registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. We welcome many of these privacy protections. Below are a few of our top priorities to correct and strengthen the APRA bill.

Allow States to Pass Stronger Privacy Laws

The APRA should not preempt existing and future state data privacy laws that are stronger than the current bill. The ability to pass stronger bills at the state and local level is an important tool in the fight for data privacy. We ask that Congress not compromise our privacy rights by undercutting the very state-level action that spurred this compromise federal data privacy bill in the first place.

Subject to exceptions, the APRA says that no state may “adopt, maintain, enforce, or continue in effect” any state-level privacy requirement addressed by the new bill. APRA would allow many state sectoral privacy laws to remain, but it would still preempt protections for biometric data, location data, online ad tracking signals, and maybe even privacy protections in state constitutions or some other limits on what private companies can share with the government. At the federal level, the APRA would also wrongly preempt many parts of the federal Communications Act, including provisions that limit a telephone company’s use, disclosure, and access to customer proprietary network information, including location information.

Just as important, it would prevent states from creating stronger privacy laws in the future. States are more nimble at passing laws to address new privacy harms as they arise, compared to Congress which has failed for decades to update important protections. For example, if lawmakers in Washington state wanted to follow EFF’s advice to


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Mario Trujillo

Date tagged:

04/16/2024, 23:03

Date published:

04/16/2024, 15:03