Privacy and security remain a centrepiece of House Democrats agenda this year and to further attempts to pass comprehensive federal law protecting consumers from malfeasance from corporations like Facebook hearings continue to be scheduled with experts to debate the need for heightened regulations.
Next week, the House subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce will hold a hearing with a panel with witnesses from the Center of Democracy & Technology, Color of Change, and the American Enterprise Institute, among others, to hear expert commentary on the potential benefits of a national law aimed at protecting consumers in the era of Big Data.
In a video announcing the hearing this week, Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, noted that consumers are becoming increasingly restless with Congress inaction on the issue.
“I know you love your devices and you have found many conveniences that go with that, but you also wonder I’m sure how is that information being used, what kind of information are companies of all kinds beginning to scoop up about you, and then how are they manipulating that data,” she said.
Citing the millions whose data was compromised by Equifax and the seemingly neverending privacy issues at Facebook, Schakowsky said it was her committee’s intention develop legislation “with the understanding that this self-regulation just isn’t working.”
Notably, the Equifax breach was first announced more than a year and a half ago — more than six weeks after the company learned it was compromised — and there’s been no real action taken by federal lawmakers in response, other than the token offering of making credit freezes free of cost to all Americans.
A report from the General Accounting Office in November 2018 noted that, as Fortune wrote, “nothing of substance has occurred since the unprecedented breach,” and that the company has continued to rake in big government contracts.
Due to this, states like California have begun pressing forward with their own bills to protect their residents — though the confusing patchwork of state-level data-breach laws, which is an undue burden on many companies, is often cited as one of the key reasons why federal legislation is absolutely necessary.
Color of Change Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter, who will testify at the committee hearing on Feb. 26, told Gizmodo she was looking forward to representing specifically the interests and concerns of people of colour and the civil rights community.
“Beyond the ability to close our ‘digital curtains,’ communities and families need to know that when we go online there are safeguards to ensure our information and data will not be compromised or used against us,” she said. “But the promise and potential of the Internet as the great equaliser continues to suffer from setbacks in net neutrality, anti-surveillance and privacy fights.”
Added Collins-Dexter: “To put it bluntly, those charged with keeping us safe online—tech companies, regulators like the FTC and the FCC and Congress—have all failed us and there are implications not only on the individual level but for our very democracy.”