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The US Week Ahead: Senate examines GDPR lessons as it weighs privacy approach


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The US Week Ahead: Senate examines GDPR lessons as it weighs privacy approach


The U.S. Senate will turn its focus once more to data privacy this week following the Oct. 6 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An Oct. 10 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on consumer data privacy is slated to examine lessons from the roll out of European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, as well as California's consumer privacy legislation, which takes effect in 2020.

The EU's GDPR privacy law, which went into effect in May, changed the way European citizens' data is collected, stored and managed. Among other provisions, the law mandates that organizations operating within the EU, as well as foreign entities that offer goods and services to EU customers, receive unambiguous consent from users before collecting or processing their personal data. It also instructs companies to notify users of certain types of data breaches within 72 hours of discovery. Companies found in noncompliance may be subject to large fines.

In the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act will notify customers of a company's intent for collecting their data, as well as which third-party companies have access to that data. It will also allow consumers the ability to opt out of the sale of their data.

The Senate Commerce Committee hearing follows a September hearing at which top technology executives and internet service providers discussed consumer privacy matters. At the September hearing, the industries' representatives testified that a federal standard was needed to avoid a patchwork of state laws inspired by California privacy legislation. They cautioned against overly burdensome regulation, however.

Dr. Andrea Jelinek, chair of the European Data Protection Board, and Alastair Mactaggart, board chair of Californians for Consumer Privacy, an advocacy group backing privacy reform in the state, are expected to testify Oct. 10, among other witnesses.

In the wake of implementation of the European privacy law, the federal government has been debating how it would like to respond.

In Congress, a range of bills have been introduced in attempts to craft a federal privacy regime. Among the most notable proposals, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has introduced a bill known as the Balancing the Rights Of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly Act, or BROWSER Act, which would direct the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require broadband providers and search engines, among other players, to obtain opt-in consent before using customer information deemed sensitive. On the Senate side, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., introduced a bill known as the Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act, which would incorporate elements of the GDPR, such as opt-out provisions and a requirement that consumers are notified of a privacy breach within 72 hours of discovery. Both bills remain in their respective committees.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is also reportedly gathering policy ideas in an effort to introduce his own federal privacy legislation sometime next year.

Supreme Court

The Senate on Oct. 6 voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The judge has served for the past 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, during which time he has repeatedly expressed skepticism with net neutrality rules, saying that the Federal Communications Commission does not have the authority from Congress to impose them. He also said that net neutrality rules previously adopted by the FCC but since repealed violated the first amendment rights of internet service providers.

Several states and organizations are suing the U.S. government over the FCC's repeal this year of net neutrality rules passed in 2015. California recently enacted a state net neutrality rule that also faces lawsuits by the U.S. Department of Justice and various industry groups.

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Oct. 10 The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled "Consumer Data Privacy: Examining Lessons From the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act."
Oct. 11 The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled "Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem."
The FCC:
Oct. 11-12 FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will host its annual workshop on the
environmental compliance and historic preservation review process required for the construction of wireless communications facilities.
Oct. 10 The NG9-1-1 Institute, a not-for-profit organization that works to advance the deployment of 911 services, will host a "lunch and learn" titled "Cybersecurity Challenges and Opportunities on the Path to NG911" in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 10 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will partner with RealClearPolitics to host a discussion titled "Securing Cyberspace: Forging a Collective Defense" in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 11 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a summit titled "Cybersecurity Summit: NextGen Digital Security" in Washington, D.C.
Industry events:
Oct. 8-12 WISPA, an advocacy group representing wireless internet service providers, will host a conference titled "WISPAPALOOZA" in Las Vegas.
Oct. 12 The Brookings Institution will host an event with National Telecommunications and Information Administration Administrator David Redl titled "Governing the emerging digital economy" in Washington, D.C.

Stories of note:

Sen. John Thune criticizes FCC for lack of investment in Universal Service Fund

FCC's Brendan Carr says 5G key to scale telehealth, retain US tech lead

How California's net neutrality could impact cable, wireless giants

DOJ's challenge to Calif. net neutrality bill creates broader uncertainty

Facebook data breach could affect up to 5 million European users

The week in OTT: Netflix brings new content; Hulu picks up comedy series

DOJ sues California over net neutrality; Facebook may face $1.63B fine in Europe