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U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on Proposals to Protect Consumer Data Privacy

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing entitled, “Examining Legislative Proposals to Protect Consumer Data Privacy.” In his opening statement, Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) stated that the committee has been working over the past year to “develop a strong, national privacy law that would provide baseline data protections for all Americans.” Chairman Wicker also addressed that throughout the hearing members have received “input of a large number of stakeholders…about how best to protect data from misuse and unwanted collecting and processing.” In Ranking Member Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) opening statement, she spoke about the bill that she and fellow democratic committee members introduced, the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act of 2019 (COPRA). Ranking Member Cantwell addressed the provisions that are included in COPRA but also the importance of enforcing such legislation.

In their testimonies, witnesses emphasized a federal framework of privacy legislation as technology continues advancing and data collection proliferates. Each witness similarly listed suggestions of what should be included in a federal privacy framework. Considerations made to the committee included that privacy legislation should contain use restrictions, providing consumers transparency by giving clear and simple choices, and selecting a regulator, like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to issue rules and enforce the law. Witnesses generally agreed that federal legislation is necessary to provide a uniform and consistent framework for, not only, consumers but businesses as well. Former FTC Commissioner, Julie Brill, in her opening statement mentioned countries that are developing or have passed privacy legislation acknowledging that “each of these legal regimes include some common principles for data protection. And, together, they are defining global baselines for privacy protection.”

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Julie Brill, Former Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft
  • The Honorable Maureen Ohlhausen, Former Acting-Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Co-Chair, 21stCentury Privacy Coalition
  • Laura Moy, Executive Director and Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology
  • Nuala O’Connor, Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel, Digital Citizenship at Walmart
  • Michelle Richardson, Director of Privacy and Data, Center for Democracy and Technology


To watch the hearing in its entirety, click here.

U.S. Senator Introduces Online Data Privacy Legislation

Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation introduced federal online privacy legislation. Ranking Member U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), along with Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D-MA) unveiled the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act of 2019 (COPRA) which establishes privacy rights and improves data security safeguards for consumers. According to Senator Cantwell, the legislation will give Americans control over their personal data, prohibits companies from using consumers’ data for harm, establishes standards on the collection, use, sharing and protection of data, penalizes companies that fail to meet these standards, and codifies the rights of individuals to pursue claims against entities that violate their data privacy rights. The bill will also give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) new enforcement powers to take action against unlawful discrimination based on personal data in the digital economy.

To read a 1-pager on the bill, click here.

To read the press release from Senator Cantwell’s office, click here.

Senators Send Letter to DOJ to Preserve Consent Decree

Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking the DOJ to preserve the 1963 Consent Decree in United States v. Association of Casualty and Surety Companies, et al. The decree “ensures that consumers are not coerced or directed to car repair shops that have sweetheart deals with specific insurers.”

To view the letter, click here.

U.S. Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Autonomous Vehicles

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on “Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology.” The hearing will have witnesses from the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Witnesses will discuss perspectives on the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, efficiency benefits, and mobility.

To view the hearing, click here.

Congresswoman Eshoo and Lofgren Introduce Online Privacy Legislation

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4978, the Online Privacy Act of 2019. The legislation aims to protect individuals and restore trust in technology companies. Specifically, the bills establishes a Data Privacy Agency (DPA), creates user rights, places clear obligations on companies, and strengthens enforcement.

To see the press release from Congresswoman Eshoo’s office, click here.

Congressional 5G Caucus Holds Briefing on CV2X Technology

The Congressional 5G Caucus, co-chaired by Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN), Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), held a briefing on “Cellular Vehicle to Everything: Leveraging 5G to Make Americas Roads Safer, Smarter, and More Efficient.” The panel discussed the importance of utilizing the 5.9 gigahertz bandwidth within 5G in order to have fully operational cellular vehicle to everything (CV2X) connectivity for the future. According to participants, CV2X capability will allow vehicles not only to connect and communicate with each other, but also with infrastructure, and mobile devices to increase safety on roadways, provide further visibility and the pathway to the future. Panelists echoed similar sentiments acknowledging that 5G is needed in order to transfer the amount of data that will be produced from the cutting-edge technology.

Dean Brenner, Senior Vice President at Spectrum Strategy and Tech Policy at Qualcomm, stated that most vehicles today have 4G enabling them to be able to connect with other vehicles. Walt Townsend, Vice President of Applications Engineering at Applied Information, highlighted that part of the testing they have been doing with emergency vehicles is in order to assure these vehicles get through traffic efficiently. John Kwant, Global Director of Government Affairs at Ford, and Brenner both expressed the need for preserving the 5.9 band for CV2X technology. In 1999 the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) reserved this part of the spectrum for direct short-range communications (DSRC). Under FCC rules, the 5.9 band space needs to be used for DSRC. Their rules also state an obligation to keep the rules updated. In May 2019, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai considered starting a rulemaking to reconsider usage of the 5.9 band for Wi-Fi, however, Brenner noted in the panel discussion there is 1200 megahertz above the 5.9 band that the FCC is giving for unlicensed use.

Panelists:

  • John Kwant, Global Director, Government Affairs Mobility & Advanced Technologies, Ford
  • Walt Townsend, VP Applications Engineering, Applied Information
  • Nancy Bell, Policy Counsel, Automated Driving, Intel Corporation
  • Dean Brenner, Senior Vice President, Spectrum Strategy & Tech Policy, Qualcomm

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform Holds Hearing on Fuel Efficiency Rollbacks

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing entitled, “Trump’s Wrong Turn on Clean Cars; The Effects of Fuel Efficiency Rollbacks on the Climate, Car Companies, and California.” Subcommittee Chairman Harley Rouda (D-CA) in his opening statement expresses his disdain with the Administration’s proposal to freeze Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards at 2020 levels, rolling back Obama Administration policy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to revoke the State of California’s waiver that allows the state to set its own tailpipe emissions standards under the Clean Air Act of 1970. Chairman Rouda asserted that “stricter emissions standards not only reduce the main cause of global warming, but encourage automakers to develop newer, more efficient vehicles that will save Americans money at the pump and improve the health of each and every American.”

The hearing also sought to examine the fossil fuel industry’s influence over the change in regulatory decision-making process at the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). During the first panel, Senator Whitehouse used his opening statement to discuss how “the fuel economy standards would have little effect on the number of cars sold, they would considerably affect the amount of gasoline sold. That 1.7 trillion dollars saved by consumers is lost oil industry revenue,” arguing that the oil industry hired groups and trade associations that lobbied on behalf of the oil industry to have these regulations rolled-back. Senator Whitehouse also scrutinized the current U.S. Department of Justice anti-trust investigation into the four automakers and the State of California agreement to adhere to California emissions standards.

During opening statements for the second panel, the first three testimonies all echoed similar sentiments regarding why the roll back of CAFE and GHG emissions standards by the Administration will negatively impact air quality and eventually the health of Americans. Dr. Wimberger stated that the three main impacts of the roll backs and revocation of California’s waiver will ensue which are, uncertainty for automakers, any meaningful impact on reducing GHG emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and adversely impact air quality in areas of the country that do not currently meet federal health based air quality standards, putting the health of vulnerable Americans at an increased risk.

Witnesses:

Panel 1:

  • The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Former Governor of California
  • The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Senator from Rhode Island

Panel 2:

  • Antonio M. Bento, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, University of Southern California
  • The Honorable Samuel Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, California
  • Emily Wimberger, Climate Economist, Rhodium Group
  • Marlo Lewis (minority witness), Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

U.S. Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Data Ownership

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a full committee hearing entitled “Data Ownership: Exploring Implications for Data Privacy Rights and Data Valuation.” Committee Chairman Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) acknowledged in his opening statement that “there have been many questions about what personal data is being collected, how it is being collected, with whom it is being shared and how it is being used.” Rapid innovation of technology has impacted all sectors and markets as industries strive to be more connected and technologically savvy. This results in a plethora of data being produced, all throughout the day about consumer habits and daily lives. Chairman Crapo goes on to state that “associated with concepts about data ownership or control is the value of personal data being used in the marketplace, and the opportunities for individuals to benefit from its use.” Ranking Member Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) offered examples of companies in his opening statement that have had data breaches or do not have a history of protecting consumer data and expressed concern when talking about “Americans’ data to be treated like property.”

In their opening statements, witness testimonies touched on similar concepts as they provided lawmakers considerations to contemplate when drafting privacy legislation. Mr. Chad Marlow discussed data as a property model, and a “central tenet of [that model] is that the government should establish – through regulating and policing a universal marketplace of personal data – that individuals are “owners” of their personal information and, consequently, have a property-based right to sell or refuse the sale of their data to third parties.” Mr. Marlow highlighted two pieces of legislation in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act and Maine’s “Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information”, that make advances to protecting consumer privacy that, at the same time, do not treat data as property. However, both of these pieces of legislation fail to establish who owns the digital data, which Mr. Ritter states is the “the most fundamental question [when discussing privacy law].”

Witnesses:

  • Jeffrey Ritter, Founding Chair, American Bar Association Committee on Cyberspace Law, External Lecturer
  • Chad Marlow, Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Will Rinehart, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum
  • Michelle Dennedy, Chief Executive officer, DrumWave Inc.

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

U.S. Senator Calls for New Electric Vehicle Subsidies

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is proposing a new $400 billion dollar incentive program for electric vehicles. According to Politico, the proposal would start with $3,000 vouchers to trade in gas-powered vehicles for plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. For lower income Americans’, larger  vouchers would be available.

The current program is stated under the Internal Revenue Code Section 30D, which establishes an electric vehicle (EV) tax credit as an incentive for consumers to buy and own qualified electric vehicles. The claimed credit can be up to $7,500 and is based on the EV’s car battery size. The federal government is looking at phasing out these tax credits and while there is no set expiration date, that process has already started.

Schumer intends for the program to be part of a larger climate bill and has not yet written up legislation for the proposal. Schumer’s program would be in addition to the current program, which some are hoping to expand. However, consumers would need to pick between the two programs.

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