Lawmakers wrangle over consumer lawsuits as privacy talks drag

Capitol Hill - federal privacy law.jpg

While individual states continue to make their own arrangements for consumer privacy, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are still debating what form a federal privacy bill should take. And as matters continue to drag on, agreement on consumers' rights shows no signs of being solidified any time soon.

There is division in the house, as Republicans and Democrats are split over whether to allow consumers a private right of action in cases of data privacy violations by tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

According to Politico, giving consumers this right would create a legal mechanism for individuals to take companies to court for violating a future privacy law.

Democrats are pushing for the provision, widely backed by privacy advocates, as a way to increase corporate liability for Silicon Valley firms like Facebook that are beset by data scandals. Many Republicans, however, criticize the idea, saying it will hurt small businesses and cause frivolous litigation. The tech industry is also opposed.

The issue has emerged as the latest obstacle as Congress tries to craft rules for how companies handle user data. Lawmakers had initially predicted they could get a bipartisan agreement by early this year, but the talks have dragged on as they've struggled to find common ground on a number of key issues. Those include whether a federal measure should override state regulations, like California's privacy law.

“I think private right of action generally upholds individual rights,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of six lawmakers negotiating a privacy bill as part of a bipartisan Senate Commerce working group, told POLITICO. “We ought to be seriously considering it.”

Privacy advocates have intensified their push on Capitol Hill for a private right of action after failing to secure that provision in the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Sources, credits & acknowledgements: Politico