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This federal privacy bill is a huge deal

Protocol Policy

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, we’re breaking down the federal privacy bill: What’s in it? What are people mad about? And what’s standing in its way? Plus, New York state takes aim at Amazon, and the story behind the whole Taser-drones-in-schools debacle.

Is … is this really happening?

Every single pig in the D.C. metro area took flight Friday when three key bipartisan lawmakers unveiled a draft of their actual, real-life, long-promised, but rarely materializing comprehensive privacy bill.

The draft of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act represents a crucial compromise between Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Roger Wicker, and would give Americans unprecedented rights over their privacy, including the right to sue tech companies that violate it.

So, has the time for federal privacy law in the U.S. finally come? Come on back down to ground, little piggies. This could take a while.

There’s a lot to this bill.

  • It includes a sweeping data minimization requirement and would leave it to the FTC to determine what sort of data collection is considered “reasonably necessary, proportionate, and limited.” Your reminder here that FTC chair Lina Khan is also a privacy hawk.
  • It would give Americans the ability to access their data, request that it be deleted or corrected and export it elsewhere.
  • Companies would be prohibited from serving targeted ads to kids under 16 and would be limited in terms of how certain sensitive types of data can be processed and shared.
  • And large data holders would have to conduct annual civil rights assessments on their algorithms’ impacts and submit those reports to the FTC.

There are two aspects of the draft that will likely prove particularly controversial.

  • As part of their compromise, lawmakers would give Americans a private right of action in this bill. That’s a blow for the tech industry, which has fought such provisions in states across the country.
  • “We have concerns about whether the bill could result in a new wave of nuisance lawsuits and look forward to reviewing the bill further,” Craig Albright, vice president of Legislative Strategy at BSA | The Software Alliance, said in a statement.
  • But lawmakers also handed business interest groups a win by including a provision that would allow the federal privacy law to preempt state privacy laws — with a few notable exceptions.
  • That could cause problems with privacy advocates, who hoped a federal law would be a floor, not a ceiling. “This law would supersede the emerging state comprehensive privacy laws and effectively freeze privacy legislation for years to come. So it needs to get it right,” Consumer Reports’ head of Tech Policy Justin Brookman tweeted.

But disagreements over those line items aren’t the only things standing in the way of the bill’s speedy passage.

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, still isn’t on board, and she would need to be for this bill to go anywhere this session. “For American consumers to have meaningful privacy protection, we need a strong federal law that is not riddled with enforcement loopholes,” Cantwell said in a statement.
  • She objected in particular to the idea that the private right of action would begin four years after the law is enacted.
  • And of course, this is an election year, which gives pretty much any legislation a fat chance of passing.

Still, the introduction of such a far-reaching agreement between the two parties — who are, on almost every issue, bitterly at odds — is an important development. And for all their reservations, it’s clear the tech industry would very much like to see some form of federal privacy legislation pass.

That’s not just to prevent a patchwork of laws from complicating their operations across the country. It would also be a mighty convenient way to pull attention away from those pesky break-up-Big-Tech bills that seem to be barreling toward the finish line.

— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)

In Washington

Lawmakers remain confident the American Innovation and Choice Online Act will pass by August. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked the bill’s authors to release the latest text in the coming weeks, according to CNBC.

Amazon is pushing the message that AICOA will hurt minority communities. How do we know? A consultant for the ecommerce giant accidentally forwarded an internal email saying as much to POLITICO. Whoopsie!

Elon Musk seems to really want out of this Twitter deal. In a letter to Twitter, Musk’s lawyer accused the company of “resisting and thwarting” his access to information about fake accounts on the platform and said Musk “reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement.”

ICE is issuing government cell phones to track migrants. The phones, which can’t connect to the internet or make calls, are equipped with the SmartLINK app, a tracking tool that immigration advocates say constitutes a dramatic expansion of U.S. detention.

In the states

The lawmaker behind New York’s crypto mining moratorium has a message for complainers: Read the friggin’ bill. “It’s not a ban,” Assemblymember Anna Kelles told CNBC. “It’s like a three-page bill. So it would be wonderful to just have people read it.”

Speaking of New York, it’s about to require Amazon and other companies to disclose warehouse quotas. The bill, which also prohibits quotas that interfere with meals and bathroom breaks, has passed the state Assembly and Senate and is now waiting for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.

OK, so New York has been busy! Lawmakers also passed the country’s first right-to-repair law for electronics. It would require makers of “digital electronic products” to make repair instructions, tools and parts available. That bill is also waiting for Hochul.


At the same time that the pandemic demonstrated all that is possible in an interconnected world, we saw in new and increasingly stark ways how certain communities continue to be marginalized and harmed by a persistent digital divide and how effectively that divide exacerbates our society’s other inequities.

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In the courts

The Supreme Court wants the Biden administration’s opinion on whether to take up NSO Group v. WhatsApp. Meta has accused NSO of violating the CFAA, while NSO has said it’s immune because it’s working on behalf of foreign governments.

An Australian court ordered Google to pay $715,000 over YouTube videos that a federal judge described as part of a “relentless cyberbullying” campaign against the New South Wales deputy prime minister. The court found that YouTube had failed to enforce its own policies.

On Protocol

Axon’s plans to put Taser drones in schools blindsided the company’s own AI ethics board. The board had already voted down a proposal to pilot Taser drones with police. Now, nine board members are resigning over it, even though the company has put its plans on hold. “We all feel the desperate need to do something to address our epidemic of mass shootings. But Axon’s proposal to elevate a tech-and-policing response when there are far less harmful alternatives, is not the solution,” they wrote.

A new crypto bill might give the industry the exemptions it’s been begging for — and didn’t get in the bipartisan infrastructure package. The draft bill, by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis, excludes a broad cross-section of crypto-affiliated businesses from tax reporting requirements.

Around the world

“Migrant TikTok” is becoming a tool for immigrants seeking resources and information about the journey from Africa to Europe. That’s a challenge for platforms, which prohibit human smuggling content but also want to preserve content related to migration.

Google is bankrupt in Russia, raising questions about how long the company can continue operating there. Google’s Russian bank account was frozen after it refused to yield to the Russian government’s content moderation demands or pay the fines it incurred for that refusal.

In the C-suite

Mark Zuckerberg will have no obvious No. 2 after Sheryl Sandberg’s exit. Instead, four men — CTO Andrew Bosworth, incoming COO Javier Olivan, CPO Chris Cox and global affairs president Nick Clegg — are all next in line to Zuck.

In data

70%: That’s the percentage of Twitter accounts following Elon Musk that are estimated to be spam, fake or inactive. For the average Twitter user, that figure is about 10%.


There is so much more we need to do to make sure our future is more equitable and inclusive and maximizes America’s potential. It is not enough just to ensure everyone is connected. We also need to extend the full scope of digital opportunity to the people, the communities, and the institutions.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!

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