California's privacy agency may soon weigh in against a sweeping federal bill that would significantly curb online data collection and ad targeting.
On Tuesday, agency staff recommended opposing the proposed American Data Privacy Protection Act, writing that the bill “would compromise the agency’s ability to fulfill its responsibility to protect Californians’ privacy rights under the California law."
The ad industry is also taking issue with the bipartisan bill, which was approved 53-2 last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Among other provisions, the current version of the House bill would prohibit companies from collecting or processing data about web users' online activity across sites and over time for ad purposes -- effectively preventing companies from serving ads to web users based on their cross-site browsing.
The bill would still allow companies to draw on data collected from their own sites in order to serve targeted ads to people 17 and older, on an opt-out basis.
The measure would also override most state laws, including the bulk of California's privacy law.
Major ad organizations argued in a July 19 letter to Congress that the proposed law “would stifle that data-driven economy by prohibiting the collection and use of basic demographic and online activity data for efficient, responsible advertising.”
The bill that advanced to the floor would still allow companies to draw on data collected from their own sites in order to serve targeted ads to people age 17 and older, on an opt-out basis. The measure would prohibit companies from serving targeted ads to children or teens younger than 17.
Privacy advocates appear to be divided over the measure. The Electronic Privacy Information Center supports the bill, arguing in a July 19 letter to lawmakers that the proposed statute “presents Congress with the best opportunity it has had in decades to stem the very real data abuses and privacy harms that are happening online every minute of every day due to the lack of a U.S. privacy law.”
Consumer Reports also largely endorses the bill -- though with the caveat that the measure should be further refined. The group said in a July 19 letter that the current House version “would dramatically improve the online data ecosystem and offer robust privacy protections for American consumers that do not exist today.”
But others, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are not impressed with the bill.
“Before a floor vote, we urge the House to fix the bill and use this historic opportunity to strengthen -- not diminish -- the country's privacy landscape now and for years to come,” the organization said in a July 24 post. The group raised several concerns, including that the legislation would “steamroll state data privacy statutes.”
The California privacy agency board will meet Thursday to consider its position on the federal bill.