Lawmakers divided over state privacy rules

Lawmakers are running into their first major challenge as they finally begin work on a data privacy bill, with Republicans and Democrats sharply divided over whether to block states from enforcing their own rules.

Both parties are optimistic about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement on the nation’s first comprehensive data privacy law, but how that law will deal with tough new rules put in place by states like California is proving to be an early sticking point.

At recent hearings, the first in the current Congress on data privacy, Republicans pushed hard to override any state measures on privacy, while Democrats sought to punt on the issue. Democrats say they might consider preemption, which would allow the federal law to override state laws, but only if the final data privacy bill passed by Congress offers robust protections for customers’ data.

“Republicans were on message, and their message was, ‘You have to have one national bill,’ ” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee, told The Hill. “My view is that actually comes at the end. … If we have a really strong bill that is going to adequately protect consumers throughout the country, then definitely preemption’s on the table.”

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