Pelosi Won't Back Federal Privacy Bill That Would Override State Laws

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested this week that she won't support the proposed federal American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which would override much of California's existing privacy law.

“With so much innovation happening in our state, it is imperative that California continues offering and enforcing the nation’s strongest privacy rights,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, stated. “California’s landmark privacy laws ... must continue to protect Californians -- and states must be allowed to address rapid changes in technology.”

The bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which was advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a 53-2 vote, would broadly curb online data collection and use. Among numerous restrictions, the bill would prohibit companies from collecting or processing data about people's cross-site activity for ad purposes. That ban would effectively prevent companies from serving ads to web users based on their browsing activity.

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The measure would also prohibit companies from serving targeted ads to children or teens younger than 17.

Other provisions would still allow companies to draw on data collected from their own sites in order to serve targeted ads to adults, on an opt-out basis.

The bill would override many state laws, including nearly all provisions of California's sweeping privacy law.

The major ad organizations oppose the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, while advocacy groups are divided about the measure.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, New America's Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge and dozens of other groups support the proposed law, arguing in a letter to Pelosi that the bill will “bring relief to millions today.”

“We fear that a failure to move the bill in this Congress will forestall progress on this issue for years to come,” the groups add,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others wrote last week.

But others, including the California Privacy Protection Agency, say that a federal law should allow states to pass more stringent measures.

“Everyone in the United States should enjoy strong privacy protections. But those rights should not come at the expense of existing rights,” California Privacy Protection Agency executive director Ashkan Soltani said in a letter sent last month to lawmakers.

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