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United States Privacy Digest | Notes from the IAPP Editorial Director, April 2, 2021 Related reading: A view from DC: White House preps a 'bridge' to AI regulation



Dear readers,

As the COVID-19 vaccination continues to roll out across the country and with spring upon us, I do feel a sense of optimism, though navigating the varying sign-ups for my place in the vaccination line is somewhat torturous. It's like the closer I get to the finish line, the more impatient I've become. If you haven't yet received your jab, here's hoping your appointment is right around the corner. 

There's also a growing sense of optimism around prospects for a federal privacy law. At an event held by The Wall Street Journal this week, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — a committee that helps oversee privacy policy in Congress — said bipartisan legislation is possible this year. "I think people on both sides of the aisle, they'll want to see something done," he said. "I think there's a real interest in making sure that this happens this year." 

To help level-set the prospects of a federal law, Wilmer Hale's Kirk Nahra highlighted six things to watch out for as the federal privacy debate evolves. As he points out in his cogent piece for Privacy Perspectives, we've seen potential tipping points before — from massive data breaches and other privacy-related scandals — only to see baseline legislation fizzle out. However, as Nahra points out, "One path may be through simplicity. I can see a 'simple' law, one that needs to address the topics of preemption and a private cause of action through legislation, but that leaves the rest of the tricky issues to regulation. That's one of the lessons of the HIPAA rules — where the law only defined who was covered by the rules and HHS had to draft everything else from scratch." 

At the same time, states are busy hashing out prospective privacy laws. Lawmakers and stakeholders in Washington were busy this last week shepherding the Washington Privacy Act through the House. Our own Jennifer Bryant reported on the WPA's developments. The House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee approved an amended version of the WPA that would add a limited private right of action, and just yesterday in the face of industry pushback, the House Appropriations Committee moved the amended WPA bill forward. 

Though Oklahoma's proposed bill, House Bill 1602, faces an uphill battle for passage, other states, including Alaska and Colorado, have proposed bills in their respective states. In fact, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, R-Alaska, introduced the Consumer Data Privacy Act in separate bills in each of the chambers: Senate Bill 116 and HB 159.

Clearly, there's lots of developments ahead, but in the meantime, with baseball, warmer weather and tens of millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccines making their way across the country, there are plenty of things to feel optimistic about. 


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