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United States Privacy Digest | Notes from the IAPP, Dec. 3, 2021 Related reading: Notes from the IAPP, Nov. 19, 2021



Greetings from Newfields, New Hampshire!

First, here's wishing a happy and healthy holiday season to readers as we all embark on our traditional festive endeavors in the weeks to come. While this time of year is known for a little rest and relaxation and it certainly will be on my end again this year it's hard to ignore the upcoming turn of the calendar, which brings plenty of reflection and looking forward all at once.

I'll save the looking back for IAPP articles to come later this month and take my final turn with the pen in 2021 to shift my view to the horizon and 2022. Talking annually about the big to-dos or happenings that stare down privacy professionals in the year ahead feels like a routine song and dance. We know better, though, given the evolving nature of the wide-ranging subject matter we are dealing with. This is especially true on the U.S. privacy front entering 2022.

Top of mind for 2022 is if the gridlock around federal privacy legislation will break in Washington, D.C. Recent reports from MLex suggest members of U.S. Congress are quite literally not listening to each other on the topic of privacy despite some end-of-year bill proposals that have drawn some attention.

Regardless of what's covered in those bills, there needs to be a recognition that two battles are being fought with the view of federal law as sort of a knight in shining armor. On one side, there are legislative efforts to avoid a state privacy law patchwork and properly protect U.S. consumers. The flipside is working toward legislation that will stand up international data flows, specifically EU-U.S. channels. Whether existing proposals address both concerns is a matter of opinion, but what's clear is federal lawmakers are rarely if ever talking about these issues in the same breath. Some enlightening or meeting halfway on combining these two fronts will likely need to happen early in 2022.

There's no doubt the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's privacy work early in 2022 will be worth watching, especially if it receives the proposed $500 million in funding from the Build Back Better Act. But there's another potential privacy catalyst on the radar as we brace for next year: The White House.

Even as its agenda remains chock full as 2021 winds down, we've seen the Biden administration turn its gears on privacy-related matters. December will feature listening sessions on the interplay among privacy, equity and civil rights, while last month saw a string of public events dedicated to gathering opinions on the use of artificial intelligence technologies. This type of attention and due diligence are what the privacy community expected from this administration upon taking office last January.

There has undoubtedly been willingness and aspirations to beef up U.S. privacy and digital policies, but why a flood of action all of the sudden? Competing priorities is certainly one piece, but the real answer is urgency. The EU is doing a mass overhaul on its digital regulations while China's new privacy and data security laws have taken force. The U.S. is being leapfrogged in the global conversation and isn't just realizing it, but is beginning to see the effects of it — turn back to EU-U.S. data flows and more.

Everyone talking about privacy is a good thing, but talk is just that. Action will require compromise and collaboration, which don't come without multi-party dialogue. So with all sides — Biden, Democrats, Republicans, advocates, stakeholders — willing to converse among themselves, why not talk to each other?

There you have my 2022 privacy ramble. Consider, discuss and we'll check back in January.


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