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Silicon Valley-Funded Privacy Think Tanks Fight in D.C. to Unravel State-Level Consumer Privacy Protections

Published: April 16, 2019
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Source: The Intercept

AFTER YEARS OF ignoring the issue, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are suddenly engaged in a furious fight over enacting national legislation to establish basic online privacy rights for consumers. As with the crafting of much legislation dealing with complicated issues, legislators are relying on experts to help codify the consumer protections.

In a twist that is all too familiar in Washington, D.C., however, many of the groups that have positioned themselves as expert voices on consumer privacy are pushing for a bill that hews closely to tech industry interests. Lawmakers who are famously ignorant on technology issues are hearing largely from an army of industry lobbyists and experts funded by social media companies, online platforms, data brokers, advertisers, and telecommunication giants — the very same corporate interests that profit from the collection and sale of internet data.

Take the Center for Democracy and Technology, one of the most prominent privacy-centered Beltway think tanks. The group is considered to be well-respected among congressional staffers, routinely testifies before committees on privacy legislation, and is a prime mover in the national online privacy bill discussion.

Late last year, the organization circulated draft federal privacy legislation that would nullify major state-level regulations. In March, when the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing of the session on how to formulate a federal consumer privacy standard, the center’s Privacy and Data Project Director Michelle Richardson testified.

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