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United States Privacy Digest | Notes from the IAPP, March 4, 2022 Related reading: Notes from the IAPP, Feb. 25, 2022

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Happy Friday, U.S. Privacy Digest readers!

We’ve reached the end of a week in which privacy was front and center at the government level.

In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden stressed the need for improvements to children’s privacy and online safety, calling for a ban on targeted advertising to children and for technology companies to cease collecting children’s personal data. In his short and to-the-point remarks on the topic, Biden also said social media platforms need to be held accountable for “the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”

While action on children’s privacy is undoubtedly necessary and welcome, and joins ongoing interest from Congress in improving children’s protections online, Biden’s thoughts left me questioning why enhancing privacy protections and curbing pervasive data collection for all, no matter our age, wouldn’t be part of the focus?

It seemed to be on the minds of some members of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. The group met to discuss proposed legislation — including the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act of 2022 and the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act of 2022 — but certain members, like Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., noted the proposals should be considered as part of a privacy framework “not as a piecemeal set of bills.”

“Move past these one-off bills that beat around the bush of privacy and data security concerns,” Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., urged.

With the subcommittee’s conversation centering around ways to hold Big Tech accountable, members asked witnesses — Consumer Reports Policy Analyst Laurel Lehman, DuckDuckGo U.S. Senior Public Policy Manager Katherine McInnis, AI for the People U.S. Chief Executive Officer Mutale Nkonde, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Supervisor Mike Duffey — whether a comprehensive privacy law is a critical component of doing so. The four witnesses resoundingly said yes.

It seems we're in another year, another legislative session in which lawmakers hear the need for comprehensive privacy legislation, discuss action and some put forth the call to make it happen. Another year of growing and pointed talks around enhancing privacy protections, with legislative proposals targeting privacy in "piecemeal" ways, with no concrete steps toward broader legislation that could address several of the issues we face in today’s digital world — in one swoop.

I can’t help but feel it’s like we’re reaching for crumbs when we could be enjoying the entire meal. When will we get there?

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