There is strong public support for a federal privacy law, but the process of creating one has been complicated by mixed political views, and by tech giant lobbying …
Slow progress toward a federal privacy law
US public support for a federal privacy law, and other issues to constrain the powers of Big Tech, ranges from 56% to 83%, depending on the poll. What all polling results have in common is support by a majority of US citizens, and opposition by only around 10%.
US businesses also support a federal privacy law, because complying with a single set of legal requirements is far easier than the disparate state privacy laws we have at present.
State laws have also shown themselves very vulnerable to lobbying by tech giants, who mostly prefer weak privacy laws. Indeed, some US states are pushing forward bills that were largely written by lobbyists.
Apple has its own agenda – for example, arguing that competing app stores, or sideloading from developer websites would place iPhone user data at risk. But in general, the company has expressed strong support for meaningful privacy protection, going to far as to leave a lobbying group pushing for weaker laws.
Apple’s privacy bill lobbying has credibility
Accountable Tech, a lobbying group set up to resist the growing power held by tech giants, especially in the area of privacy, says that of all the companies lobbying on the issue, Apple has the greatest credibility. CNBC reports.
Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech, expressed “cautious optimism” that this Congress would pass both the self-preferencing bill and a separate bill that is more specifically targeted at how companies display apps in mobile app stores […]
Those who seek to educate congressional offices on the bills say tech’s fingerprints are clear through the talking points echoed by staff.
“By the time that we were engaging with congressional offices they’d heard from like 12 people from industry,” Accountable Tech’s Lehrich said. “You could tell who they talked to just from the things that they’re raising.”
Lehrich said advocates for the bills would end up spending the “first 30 minutes debunking talking points from Facebook and Amazon and Apple and Google” […]
Lehrich said Apple’s lobbying has so far seemed to be the most persuasive to lawmakers with lingering concerns about the legislation, in part because it’s maintained a greater sense of credibility in Washington than some of its peers.
“When Facebook or Amazon make baseless sky-is-falling attacks, there’s little to say besides, ‘that’s just patently false,‘” Lehrich said in an email. “When Apple makes esoteric arguments about serious security risks of sideloading, you need compelling substantive pushback to allay lawmakers’ concerns.”
Accountable Tech has a strong team, including lobbyist Nicole Gill and former Mozilla privacy specialist Kaila Lambe.
What will happen next?
The big stumbling block is the Senate. Despite bilateral support for privacy legislation, there has been a great deal of argument about the details.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act has the greatest chance of being passed, but it’s still not clear that it has majority support. Democrats – who strongly support the bill – appear divided in their views on the best strategy to get it passed.
Some believe that quietly lobbying Republican senators behind the scenes is best, only proceeding to a vote when majority support is clear. Others believe that it’s best to push for a vote now, which would put any senator opposing it in an awkward political position.
Some advocates say it would be best to put lawmakers’ feet to the fire by making them go on the record with their votes, gambling that many won’t want to be seen as weak on Big Tech.
Additionally, if the bill doesn’t proceed to a vote soon, the midterm elections could see it lost in campaign distractions.
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