This is a brief legislative update for the public. Join the i2Coalition for in-depth updates from our Policy Director available only to members.
The House and Senate are back in session after a two week recess. Staff are returning to town this week, and Members return for official business next week. During the recess, the House passed the Save the Internet Act to repeal the repeal of the Obama-era Net Neutrality Order and the Senate passed a slate of Executive and Judicial nominations.
Key items post-recess: The FY 2020 appropriations process; an FY 2019 Supplemental (hurricanes/flooding from last year); and Defense Authorization. The House will also take up HR.9, a resolution that calls for supporting the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement to address climate change. Meanwhile, the Senate is now focusing its attention towards nominations.
There may be movement in the Senate about the need to re-examine Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It was a key topic of discussion during an April 10th Senate Judiciary Hearing on conservative bias from online platforms and during presentations at SXSW.
Also, here is an overview of upcoming hearings:
- May 1: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Privacy Hearing. Witnesses will be consumer groups.
- May 8: FTC to appear before the Energy and Commerce CPAC Subcommittee to examine privacy issues and enforcement. Witnesses will include all five commissioners.
- May 15: Energy and Commerce, FCC Oversight Hearing.
Privacy Legislation Introduced or in Progress:
- Online “Dark Patterns” Bill — Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act. The bill would prohibit online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, or “dark patterns” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data. Dark patterns are online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would not usually take. The bill would only apply to large platforms that have over 100 million monthly active users.
- Senator Markey introduced two key privacy bills — The first, his Privacy Bill of Rights Act would ban companies from consumers’ personal information for discriminatory purposes and limit the scope of data collection to what is required to offer services. The bill would expand the Federal Trade Commission’s rulemaking authority to enforce standards and require the agency to establish a website spelling out consumer privacy rights. Additionally, it would grant individuals a private right of action to bring lawsuits against companies for violations. The second bill, the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act (or “KIDS Act”), would protect children against harmful content on the internet. The bill would regulate online features that foster addictive behavior, and encourage children to spend money, as well as those which proliferate violent and explicit content.
- BROWSER Act – Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) re-introduced her BROWSER Act this week. The bill would ensure tech and telecom companies only collect and share sensitive information after getting consumer sign-off.
- Warren Privacy Bill – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) officially introduced the Corporate Executive Accountability Act. The bill proposes jail time for corporate executives found liable for a data breach or other privacy violation if it affects at least one percent of the U.S. or a state’s population. It would allow federal regulators to punish executives with up to a year in jail for first offenses and three years for repeat offenses.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS – NET NEUTRALITY
- Net Neutrality Hearing on Save the Internet: As mentioned above, the House passed the Save the Internet Act. The bill passed the House 230-190, with one Republican supporting its passage. The bill would codify the previously repealed 2015 FCC Open Internet Order, including reinstating Title II regulations. This legislation would need 60 votes in the Senate, which is unlikely given the increased Republican majority in the latest session.
- Digital Service Taxes – Ways and Means Republicans sent a letter in early April to President Trump encouraging the administration to treat digital service taxes imposed by other countries like trade barriers. French officials are advancing a tax on revenue from companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook and other countries are considering similar measures. The 15 Ways and Means Members believe that the taxes are discriminatory for targeting American businesses.
- USMCA – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seemed to change the administration’s message on the USMCA last week, pushing Speaker Pelosi to bring it to the House floor. Activity on the Democratic side of the House is picking up in anticipation of possible consideration of implementing legislation. Ways and Means Democrats sent a letter to USTR Lighthizer detailing their concerns with the USMCA, with the promise of more to follow.