Google, Amazon, Twitter, other Big Tech to Congress: New California data privacy rules too tough

Executives from Google, Twitter, AT&T, Amazon, Apple, and other big tech companies told a U.S. Senate panel today they support updating federal law to protect data privacy, but they want Congress to block California's tough new privacy rules.

The U.S. Commerce Department said earlier this week it is seeking comments on how to set nationwide data privacy rules, after The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in May, and California adopted stringent new rules the following month.

From Reuters:

In June California Governor Jerry Brown signed data privacy legislation aimed at giving consumers more control over how companies collect and manage their personal information, which Alphabet Inc's Google and other big companies had opposed as too burdensome. The rules take effect in 2020.

Amazon vice president Andrew DeVore said at the hearing that California's law was hastily written and the law's definition of "personal information" goes beyond information that actually identifies a person. "The result is a law that is not only confusing and difficult to comply with, but that may actually undermine important privacy-protective practices," he said.

Massive breaches of data privacy have compromised personal information of millions of U.S. internet and social media users, including notable breaches at large retailers and credit reporting agency Equifax Inc (EFX.N).

"The Holy Grail is preemption" of state rules," Schatz said. "You are only going to get there if this is meaningfully done." He said Democrats would not replace a "progressive California law with a non-progressive federal law."

One possibility: The FTC could be given new authority to write federal privacy rules.

The companies at today's committee hearing "did not rule out backing allowing the FTC to write rules, but wanted to see the details," per Reuters.

In the Reuters photo above, some of the execs in attendance: Len Cali, senior vice president for global public policy at AT&T Inc., Andrew DeVore, vice president and associate general counsel at Inc., Keith Enright, chief privacy officer at Google LLC, Damien Kieran, global data protection officer and associate legal director at Twitter Inc., Guy (Bud) Tribble, vice president for software technology at Apple Inc., and Rachel Welch, senior vice president for policy and external affairs at Charter Communications Inc.

All were testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on safeguards for consumer data privacy in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2018.