Data Broker Lobbyists Descend On DC Pushing Loopholes In New Privacy Law
from the my-greed-is,-in-fact,-very-noble dept
The challenge with passing a functional, useful privacy law for the Internet era is several fold. One is the need for baseline competency in lawmakers, an increasing challenge in U.S. politics. But the other issue is corruption, and the fact that any meaningful privacy law first has to run a gantlet of lobbyists with unlimited budgets, representing an ocean of industries that don’t want revenues dented.
At the head of the pack is of course data brokers, whose sloppy privacy and security practices have been increasingly under fire in the Post-Roe era. Gizmodo recently did a deep dive into the largely unaccountable data broker space and discovered there are currently 32 different data brokers selling pregnancy status data on 2.9 billion consumer profiles.
And all of these data brokers have descended on DC in a bid to ensure the under-development American Data Privacy and Protection Act (H.R. 8152) includes as many loopholes as possible. The estimated $240 billion market is very nervous that the law could be an end to the free for all that is third party U.S. data collection and monetization in an environment of almost zero real accountability.
Their lobbying has been fairly successful so far. They’ve already alarmed consumer groups by winning an exemption in the House version of the bill for “de-identified” or “anonymized” data. We’ve noted for years how such terms promise user anonymity and privacy but are utterly meaningless. Still, they’re routinely used by data brokers to justify data over-collection and sale (don’t worry, it’s anonymized!).
Data brokers are apparently pushing lawmakers for even greater loopholes and favors, including pre-emption language that would defang any state level privacy efforts more robust than the federal proposal:
But data brokers don’t think these exceptions go far enough. Three brokers that lobbied on the bill told POLITICO that they are seeking more exemptions for third-party data and are pushing to block states from passing privacy protections stronger than those Congress enacts.
“We just want to continue making money hand over fist in an era of largely nonexistent oversight” doesn’t have a great ring, so many of the data brokers have taken to apparently trying to pretend that their primary concern here is for public safety:
RELX chief privacy officer Michael Lamb said the company collects and shares data with law enforcement agencies for crime prevention in areas like money laundering, fraud and human trafficking. And a federal privacy law allowing people to opt out would open the door for criminals to do the same, he said.
Of course government agencies could get a warrant instead of buying information from data brokers (something key lawmakers like Wyden say should be required by law), but what fun would that be. It’s way more fun to hyper-collect every last shred of consumer data, do a piss poor job securing it, haul in billions, then pretend you’re doing it all for public safety.
What most of these folks prefer is a bill so filled with loopholes as to make it effectively useless — outside of greenlighting problematic behaviors, and being able to falsely claim we’ve solved U.S. privacy issues. They also very much want a bill their lawyers co-write, which pre-empts and/or derails, better, consensus driven state and federal reform efforts.
Countless lobbyists from numerous industries, all with nearly unlimited budgets, have descended on DC to shape the width and breadth of the bill. Some have legitimate concerns about over-reach or legislative quality, but most simply don’t want the multi-billion-dollar unaccountable gravy train to end.