back to article US legislators propose American Privacy Rights Act - and it looks quite good

Americans may soon live under a federal privacy law – a mere two decades after the US Federal Trade Commission urged Congress to regulate online data collection. On Monday, US representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and US senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced the American Privacy Rights Act [PDF], which aims to provide …

  1. VicMortimer Silver badge
    Terminator

    Maybe

    But I have little hope that the current House of Dysfunction can accomplish anything good.

    1. Woodnag

      It's worthless. Two massive loopholes

      1. Small businesses with less than $40 million in revenue are exempt from the APRA.

      2. The legislation gives individuals the right to sue for privacy harms, and disallows mandatory arbitration in claims involving minors or a substantial privacy harm – set at $10,000 – or specific physical or mental harms.

      For 2, if there's a flagrant abuse, how do you prove a monetary damage?

  2. aerogems Silver badge
    Pirate

    Just wait

    I hate to be the pessimist, but just wait until the lobbyists are done with it and see how little it likely resembles the original bill. It'll probably be full of loopholes and exceptions so large, you could sail the entire US Navy fleet through the smallest of them. And even assuming, by some weird cosmic alignment that only happens every couple billion years, it passes exactly as it is now and is signed into law... it'll be immediately challenged in court by some data broker trade group seeking to overturn it, and they'll go judge shopping, somewhere in Texas no doubt, so they can be all but guaranteed it'll land on the docket of some anti-government federal judge who doesn't see any irony in being a federal employee.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Just wait

      Maria Cantwell is basically the senator from Microsoft, so one imagines that lobbyists from Amazon and Microsoft have already weighed in. They probably see a bigger risk and cost in having to deal with 50 disparate privacy laws and would prefer to have a consistent federal law instead. I don't doubt that the lawyers will also do battle against the federal law and try to use it as leverage to override stronger state-level protections. I also doubt that the Freedom Caucus will allow the bill to be brought to the House floor because they are, at this point, unabashed in their hatred for America.

      1. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Just wait

        "... the lawyers will also do battle against the federal law and try to use it as leverage to override stronger state-level protections"

        And there lies the crux of the "new" law - to override and subvert existing, in some cases even functional, laws at state level.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Just wait

          It would need a clause to state something along the lines of "where state and federal acts both protect privacy then the act that provides stronger protection in any particular shall prevail" or "nothing in this act shall weaken any protections provided by existing or future state acts"

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Just wait

            Shirley, you jest.

            ...or are a right-pondian...

      2. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Just wait

        I always thought the Freedom Caucus was meant to be an ironic name. Like George Carlin's musing: If crimefighters fight crime, and firefighters fight fires, what do freedom fighters fight?

        1. StudeJeff

          Re: Just wait

          The biggest threat to American's freedom and prosperity is the ever growing federal government. The Freedom Caucus is working to not just keep it in line but to get it back to something like the founders intended and the Constitution allows.

          The Freedom Caucus is fighting FOR freedom and AGAINST an increasingly tyrannical federal government.

          You folks on the other side of the pond have similar problems, and in many ways a lot worse.

          1. aerogems Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Just wait

            I guess I'd rather you staffers waste your time trolling sites like El Reg than working to turn our republic into a theocratic dictatorship following christian sharia law. So, carry on?

            1. EricB123 Silver badge

              Re: Just wait

              Sharia law is fundamentalist Muslim law. I never heard it applied to Christianity before.

              1. aerogems Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: Just wait

                Religious fundamentalists, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or pretty much anything else, love to try to impose their idea of morality on other people, and also love deriding any other value system as inferior, which is the point I was making by calling it Christian sharia law. The name and "rules" may differ, but the concept is exactly the same.

          2. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Just wait

            Don't bogart that joint, my friend...

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      That's the plan

      Start with a good bill, but one that includes the part the lobbyists care about - preempting state privacy laws. Then they use their bought and paid for congresscritters to use amendments to strip out or neuter any good stuff in it, so that basically all the bill does in the end is shut down all the state level privacy laws.

      Then the lobbyists invite all the lawmakers who did their bidding on a nice golf junket to Scotland complete with VIP distillery tour, and the congressmen tell their voters that they passed an internet privacy bill should anyone ask what they've been doing over the past couple years other than making a Keystone Kops mockery of an attempt to impeach Biden.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: That's the plan

        "Then the lobbyists invite all the lawmakers who did their bidding on a nice golf junket to Scotland complete with VIP distillery tour"

        ... and while they're there provoke them into making "private" comments about a trans woman and arrest them all for hate crimes.

  3. FF22

    Sounds like...

    an American GDPR, just with inches and ounces instead of meters and gramms

    1. aerogems Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Sounds like...

      I got news for ya! We won the war!

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Sounds like...

        You people are depressing me. You're really missing out having not seen Corner Gas so you understand references like the one I made.

        https://youtu.be/x0N4G82lA1A?si=TYnptBcbVFJXQKZs&t=827

    2. Andy 73 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like...

      One Key difference - and something that makes a significant material difference - is surely the exemption of smaller businesses?

      1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

        Re: Sounds like...

        Yep. There will be a lot of "small business" data handlers set up, I reckon. And that's probably the idea of the exemption in the first place.

      2. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like...

        And what politicians mean by "small business" is basically any company not on the Fortune 500 list, and maybe even some of those.

    3. NeilPost

      Re: Sounds like...

      Metres not meters.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Sounds like...

        How about we rename "greeters" at stores to "meeters"?

  4. cryptopants

    Flawed

    “Small businesses with less than $40 million in revenue are exempt from the APRA.“

    If they’re going to do this, they need to do it right and make the rule apply to everyone no exemptions.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Flawed

      What exactly stops Facebook spinning up a wholly-owned subsidiary or ten to sell the data unmolested?

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Flawed

      $40,000,000 in revenue doesn't sound "small" to me. It sounds like "the usual culprits" with some creative accountancy applied.

      1. OhForF' Silver badge

        Re: Flawed

        Well even with 10 wholly owned subsidiaries it would add up to only $400M so Facebook will probably consider it small change.

        The real question is if they can buy the data from the subsidiary at a pittance and use them for something that makes them much more with Facebook being exempt because the data controller is the subsidiary and the subsidiary being exempt because it has a revenue < $40M.

        Rest assured some loophole will be in place when this becomes US law.

        1. cryptopants

          Re: Flawed

          Most of the cringe data brokers, with a bit of creative accounting could fit within the $40m exemption.

          I think I could still support this as bad as it is. Since it would be an upgrade for most Americans since there is nothing else as it is. On one condition, it must not pre-exempt state rules which go further. I live in California, so this could be a downgrade for me.

  5. Dostoevsky

    Doomed!

    This bill will go nowhere, primarily because it tries to preempt state law on the matter.

    • The judiciary we have right now wouldn't stand for that, because data protection is not in the federal government's wheelhouse.

    • California wouldn't stand for that, because they have better laws that this bill would overturn.

    • Texas won't stand for that either, but for different reasons.

    Without support from two out of those three, it's doomed. That being said, I like the bill's provisions a lot, and I'd love to see states adopt it as a model or starting point.

    1. Strong as Taishan Mountains

      Re: Doomed!

      one suspects that is why this was proposed, so that restrictive regimes proposed by privacy conscious states could be controlled and preempted from somewhere where the big guys already have lobbyists ready to go.

      no serious reform will happen until a whole lot of congress becomes seriously inconvenienced by the current setup.

      1. Dostoevsky

        Re: Doomed!

        And that's exactly why the federal government should not put itself in charge of data privacy. At MOST, they should regulate sale/transfer of data to foreign entities.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Doomed

          Make privacy a constitutional right. This way you compel the government all three branches, including the state and local levels to follow it. Don’t stop there throw in healthcare for all while you’re at it. This is what other federal systems have done Germany for example. And it works very well. If you doubt that then I guess we just should get rid of the constitution and those other things on there are a waste of time.

          1. NeilPost

            Re: Doomed

            Scale up the sensible California CCPA (largely a clone of EU GDPR) to Federal level.

            1x consistent set of legislation.

            1x constitutional amendment to enact.

            Job done.

          2. Strong as Taishan Mountains

            Re: Doomed

            Problem is, 99 percent of the empire here is all too happy to throw any privilege out the window in the name of 'defense'.

            Why? Because unless you're one of the serf-class or homeless, you probably make a lot of money from 'defense'. The amount of economic activity tied in in the US to it is mind boggling. (All the money drains to NoVA)

            So USians don't actually want privacy, if it would interfere with their 200k a year DoD contracting gig.

            1. Dostoevsky

              Re: Doomed

              Well done, Mr. Commie Troll. Your check for one-half a renminbi is in the mail.

          3. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

            Re: Doomed

            You obviously do not understand how this works.

            There are no Constitutional Rights, there are just Rights. The constitution does not declare right for citizens, it prevents the government from trampling the rights they already have.

            The 4th Amendment protects the people from "illegal search and seizure", as the government is not the one searching and seizing the data, there is nothing in the constitution that can prevent this. This Amendment is woefully mis-understood.* It DOES NOT grant you a right to privacy, it protects you from the government rummaging through your life without due process. The "right to privacy" is more of a cultural aspect of American life, the idea that the State, nor any other entity, should have the ability to spy on your personal business. We have certain laws, i.e. HIPPA, that enforce this concept. A HIPPA version of data privacy would be a welcome thing.

            What they can do, is pass a law, under the Interstate Commerce clause of the constitution making it illegal to sell the personal information of American Citizens.

            * Contrary to some people's belief in this country, the 4th amendment DOES NOT protect woman from the state declaring abortion illegal. The government is neither searching her nor seizing anything from her. These laws declare the act of performing an abortion illegal. The subject of the law is the physician performing the abortion, not the woman seeking it! The woman, who gets an abortion in violation of the law, is not the criminal, the physician is! It is the physician who will be prosecuted.

            1. Dostoevsky

              Re: Doomed

              Exactamente!

              Slightly off topic, but to your point, one of the things that scares me most is when someone says "the Constitution *grants* this or that right."

              No, the Constitution does not grant rights. The government does not grant rights. The will of the people does not grant rights. And THAT is why none of those can repeal rights. It's all in the Declaration of Independence. If someone doesn't like it, they can move to Turkey, or China, or Iran.

      2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Re: Doomed!

        The Feds can site the Interstate Commerce Clause that gives them pre-eminence over state laws.

        1. Dostoevsky

          Re: Doomed!

          They could cite that, or the expanded reading of the 14th Amendment. However, it would get a lot of push-back, and with our current situation, I see that argument as going either way.

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