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United States Privacy Digest | Heard around DC — Roundup and reflections for May 6, 2022 Related reading: Heard around DC — Roundup and reflections for April 29, 2022




A leaked draft Supreme Court decision dominated the policy conversation this week, as it threatened to overturn longstanding precedent preserving the right to safe abortions in the U.S. If the draft becomes the final holding, some privacy voices say it could have ramifications for other rights rooted in individual privacy interests, such as same-sex intimacy and marriage. Though such a decision would not directly impact commercial data protection norms in the U.S., judicial protections against digital surveillance could erode if the view gains traction that a right to privacy cannot be read into the U.S. Constitution. Others point to the potential use of personal data, such as health measurements, network traffic, or location data, to identify those who seek abortion services. A group of women privacy professionals released a statement calling for “the right to privacy, both in our decisions and in the data that informs our decisions, to be protected at a federal level.”  

Here's what’s happened since the last roundup:

  • Senators heard the FTC’s call. The Senate Commerce Committee released a report on Restoring the Federal Trade Commission’s Authority to Protect Consumers and the Marketplace, outlining the impact that last year’s AMG Capital Management decision has had on the FTC’s ability to respond to consumer harms. Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., along with Sens. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., introduced a bill, the Consumer Protection Remedies Act of 2022, meant to restore the FTC’s 13(b) authority. Law firm Kelley Drye and Warren described the Act as a “one-sided 13(b) fix.”
  • Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on platform transparency. Top experts on platform governance testified at a hearing titled “Platform Transparency: Understanding the Impact of Social Media” as Senators consider whether to require platforms to make themselves available for study by researchers and members of the public. In December, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, introduced the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act along with Sens. Robert Jones Portman, R-Ohio, and Klobuchar. Yet, the clock is ticking for the U.S. lawmakers to address antitrust, platform governance or privacy issues this legislative session.
  • FTC Chair Lina Khan vowed to fix staff morale. After a government-wide survey showed staff confidence in leadership at the FTC dropped precipitously in the past year, The Information published an email sent from Khan to FTC staff, promising to “understand the root causes of these results” and “strengthen communication and relationships more broadly within the agency.”
  • Is data security law failing? In a webinar discussion about their new book “Breached! Why Data Security Law Fails and How to Improve It,” professors Daniel Solove and Woodrow Hartzog explained why they believe breach notification laws, security safeguards and lawsuits for breaches all fall short of addressing the ever-growing problem of data breaches. Stopping all breaches shouldn’t be the goal of data security laws, but rather reducing the harm of inevitable breaches, holding more actors accountable, and unifying privacy and security.

Upcoming happenings:

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