Washington Focus

“Privacy for America” Formed to Tackle Data Privacy Protections, Legislation

April 15, 2019 – As the debate over consumer data privacy continues and digital marketing has become increasing complex, a new “Privacy for America” coalition has formed to work with Congress to support “enactment of groundbreaking comprehensive federal consumer data privacy and security legislation,” according to an April 8 press release. The group is designed to provide “a powerful advocacy platform representing the advertising industry,” and includes a wide range of members, including Coalition for Healthcare Communication member the 4A’s.

In a press release announcing its role as a Privacy for America steering committee member, the 4A’s stated that “consumers should be able to count on basic data privacy and security protections without having to read hundreds of lengthy privacy policies. At 4A’s, we take this responsibility seriously, and we know that all of us need to do better to ensure Americans are secure in their online experiences.”

4A’s Executive Vice President for Government Relations Dick O’Brien, who also serves on the CHC Executive Committee, explained that although the industry has been self-regulating for more than a decade, “that era is over and federal regulation is now supported by both the government and the industry.”

O’Brien told CHC that “both the government and industry agree that they must work together to develop workable legislation. Industry believes that the federal government is needed to create a uniform federal law that preempts most state laws; government officials recognize that industry expertise is needed to protect both consumers and the marketplace from unintended adverse consequences.”

Privacy for America already has outlined several goals for any national legislation, including:

  • Prohibiting a variety of specific data practices, including using a person’s data to deny them a job, credit or healthcare, unless specifically permitted under existing federal or state laws; using personal characteristics like race or color to discriminate against a person in setting prices or determining eligibility for products or services; or sharing consumer data with third parties without enforceable contracts to ensure their lawful use of the data;
  • Creating a new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Data Protection Bureau, to enhance the FTC’s longstanding expertise in overseeing privacy matters; granting strengthened rulemaking authority to the FTC; and authorizing strict penalties for companies that engage in prohibited privacy practices – to increase substantially privacy oversight and enforcement;
  • Imposing significant restrictions on data use for advertising – including banning certain types of data from being collected or used for advertising, limiting the purposes for which advertising data may be used, and allowing consumers to identify their preferences regarding what advertising they do or do not wish to receive; and
  • Requiring strong data security protections to guard against data breaches.

An announcement from O’Brien regarding the 4A’s involvement with Privacy for America states that in the near future, the group’s members will meet with stakeholders in government and industry “to grow the coalition and advocate for consumer data policy positions.” With many large advertising firms sending representatives to Privacy for America discussions, O’Brien noted that part of the 4A’s job will be to consider the impact of any legislation on small firms as well.