U.S. Congress should not override California privacy law – state attorney general

February 25, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday sent a letter to four top U.S. lawmakers urging them not to pre-empt the state’s new privacy law with a watered down federal legislation.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), effective since the start of 2020, is among the most significant regulations overseeing the data collection practices of U.S. companies. It allows state residents to request their data be deleted from e-commerce websites and social media, and opt out of having data sold to third parties.

Federal lawmakers contemplating a federal privacy law are looking at California as a guide, but disagree over whether the federal law would preempt state laws, whether users should be allowed to sue companies over privacy, and other issues.

One draft bill from Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, proposed nationwide consumer privacy rules that would override state laws. The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Maria Cantwell, released her own draft and opposes any bill that would pre-empt state laws.

“Congress should make clear in any legislative proposal that state attorneys general have parallel enforcement authority and that consumers also have the opportunity to protect their rights directly” through lawsuits, Becerra said in the letter, urging lawmakers to extend enforcement powers broadly.

“I am optimistic Congress will be able to craft a proposal … looking to state law as providing a floor for privacy protections, rather than a ceiling,” he said.

The letter is addressed to Senators Wicker and Cantwell along with Representative Frank Pallone, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the top Republican on that committee Greg Walden.

Privacy concerns have mounted due to data breaches at big tech companies and public discomfort over how information is being collected and used. U.S. regulators have imposed hefty fines on Facebook Inc and the YouTube unit of Alphabet Inc’s Google for privacy violations.

Becerra told Reuters in December that California will try to stop any attempt to overrule state laws. He said enforcement efforts around the new law from his office will be guided by companies showing a willingness to comply.

The public comment period on the latest draft of California’s regulations ends on Tuesday. The AG’s office plans to have final regulations published by July 1, 2020.

Many businesses have already begun complying with the state’s privacy requirements. An economic impact assessment prepared for the AG’s office by an independent research firm found compliance with the regulations will cost businesses between $467 million and $16.5 billion between 2020 and 2030.

By Nandita Bose, Reuters
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