CTA's Shapiro: Privacy Bill Must Balance Protection with Innovation

The Consumer Technology Association has offered up its recommendations for comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in advance of a Dec. 4 hearing on the topic in the Senate Commerce Committee.

A group of senators last week introduced a tough new privacy bill of rights bill, which will be one of the topics under discussion at the hearing, which is self-explanatory titled "Examining Legislative Proposals to Protect Consumer Data Privacy."

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In a letter to committee leadership, CTA president Gary Shapiro said his association supports a federal approach that maintains consumer trust (some argue that trust will need to be restored), while still allowing for innovation-driving data collection.

While the Senate bill does not preempt state laws with stricter privacy protections, CTA recommends a preemptive federal law as the most effective way to achieve a consistent framework. "A bill that merely sets one standard and allows states to add different requirements on top of it will lead to both confusion and disparity for consumers," Shapiro told the senators.

CTA also wants protections to match the risk, saying sensitive data "may" require heightened protections. It also says enforcement should focus on "specific, concrete" harms.

Shapiro says privacy legislation should not wrap small businesses in red tape that constricts their ability to compete with larger companies, and should not legislate a private right of action for privacy violations, which he said would be a boon to trial lawyers and a bane to innovators and consumers, the latter because they would lose out on new services and products chilled by the threat of litigation. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.