Federal Privacy Legislation: What You Need to Know

While the Internet offers consumers a veritable wealth of information, goods, and services, it is also a rich source of data regarding consumers. Through “cookies” and other tracking technologies, internet sites gather a substantial amount of personal data, as well as personal interests and preferences of users, both directly and indirectly. 

Such consumer information has proven to be very valuable to online businesses because it allows for the targeting of goods and services that are specifically catered to the interests of individual customers and allows businesses to increase their revenue by selling the information or selling advertising space on their websites. 

Unbeknownst to the average citizen, an entire industry has emerged to market a variety of software products designed to assist internet sites in collecting and analyzing visitor data and targeted advertising.

Federal Privacy Legislation: What You Need to Know

Background to Privacy Rights in the United States

Individual privacy is safeguarded in the United States by a mix of constitutional protections, federal and state laws, rules, and voluntary codes of conduct, all of which differ in how they apply to the public and private sectors. 

Decades ago, the Supreme Court acknowledged a fundamental right to privacy, although the American Constitution does not expressly mention it. It later interpreted the Bill of Rights as establishing “a right of personal privacy or a guarantee [that] certain zones of privacy [do] exist under the Constitution” through a penumbra of other rights.

The U.S. legislative approach to privacy has typically been sectoral, meaning that privacy law has evolved to target certain data categories and users. This is in addition to the constitutional protections discussed in the previous paragraph. 

The main worry in the past was the government’s potential use of private information. Therefore, the use of personally identifiable information that the government maintains is restricted by some laws. Additionally, several laws restrict how businesses can use customer data. Although there isn’t a single statute or regulation that expressly acknowledges a U.S. citizen’s right to informational privacy, when properly applied, some laws do give customers a reasonable measure of such privacy.

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the need for comprehensive federal data privacy legislation in the United States has become increasingly apparent. No longer is the primary concern about the government’s use of personal data. The privacy landscape has shifted and the major concern is the protection of personal and consumer information online. 

The 118th Congress showed promising bipartisan progress by advancing the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) to the brink of a House floor vote. In this blog post, we will explore the recent developments, challenges, and potential outcomes regarding US federal privacy legislation.

Advancing the ADPPA

The latest Congressional hearing hosted by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce signified a step forward for US federal privacy law prospects in 2023. During the hearing, lawmakers emphasized the importance of comprehensive legislation to address regulatory shortcomings and protect consumers. The ADPPA, which passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee with an overwhelming majority last year, remains the preferred framework for discussion and improvement.

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Bipartisanship and Prioritization

The ADPPA demonstrated remarkable bipartisan support in the previous session, and this commitment to collaboration is expected to continue despite the shift in control to a Republican-led House. Lawmakers recognize the urgency of addressing alleged data issues and consumer harms, aiming to instill trust and ensure responsible data protection. The focus remains on prioritizing the interests of both consumers and industry stakeholders.

The Burden of State Privacy Laws

One of the primary motivations behind a national privacy standard is to alleviate the burden of navigating a patchwork of state privacy laws. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) often struggle with compliance and face significant challenges in adapting to the evolving digital economy. Federal preemption, a contentious aspect of the ADPPA, offers legal certainty and promotes consistency across jurisdictions. Many experts and industry representatives argue that preemption is essential for achieving a sustainable and harmonized regulatory landscape.

California’s Role and Potential Obstacles

While California has been at the forefront of privacy legislation with the CCPA and CPRA, it continues to resist proposed federal preemption measures. With a new Republican leadership, the prospects of the ADPPA reaching the floor in 2023 may improve. However, California’s opposition to preemption could pose challenges to the passage of a national privacy law.

Data Brokers and Consumer Awareness

The recent hearing highlighted the growing concerns surrounding data brokers and their impact on consumer privacy. The multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry operates with limited restrictions and oversight, exacerbating general privacy issues. Lawmakers expressed the need for increased transparency, user opt-out obligations, and enhanced consumer awareness regarding data brokerage practices. The ADPPA addresses these concerns through provisions on broker disclosure and user consent.

Looking Ahead

It remains to be seen if the ADPPA will be resurrected this year. The ADPPA continues to be the leading framework for discussion and improvement, aiming to address regulatory shortcomings and protect consumer privacy rights. The challenges posed by state privacy laws and the resistance from certain jurisdictions, notably California, will be significant factors influencing the path to a national privacy standard. As the 2023 session unfolds, stakeholders and lawmakers must work collaboratively to strike a balance between consumer protection, industry interests, and a harmonized regulatory environment.

Potential Pitfalls of Federal Privacy Legislation

Considerations for Balancing Consumer Protection and Industry Interests

While the progress made on federal privacy legislation is commendable, it is crucial to recognize the potential pitfalls and challenges that such legislation may encounter. This article examines the key considerations and potential drawbacks associated with the proposed American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) and other federal privacy initiatives.

Balancing State and Federal Authority

A significant challenge lies in reconciling the authority of individual states, such as California with its comprehensive California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and a uniform federal privacy standard. The resistance from states like California to federal preemption could hinder the establishment of consistent regulations across the nation, leading to a fragmented regulatory landscape.

Balancing Consumer and Industry Needs

Finding the delicate balance between consumer privacy protection and the needs of businesses and industries is essential. Overly stringent regulations could impose burdensome compliance requirements on small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), potentially stifling innovation and hindering economic growth. Conversely, weak regulations might not adequately safeguard consumer privacy rights and data security.

Impact on Compliance

The implementation of federal privacy legislation on a national scale is a complex undertaking. Compliance requirements, particularly for organizations operating across multiple states, could be challenging and resource-intensive. Businesses will need guidance and support in understanding and meeting their obligations, especially if compliance with different state laws remains necessary.

Evolving Technological Landscape

The rapid pace of technological advancements presents an ongoing challenge for privacy legislation. As technology continues to evolve, new data collection practices, emerging platforms, and innovative business models may outpace the regulatory framework. Ensuring that federal privacy legislation remains adaptable and future-proof is crucial to effectively protect consumer privacy.

Enforcement and Accountability

The effectiveness of federal privacy legislation heavily relies on robust enforcement mechanisms and appropriate penalties for non-compliance. Adequate resources must be allocated to regulatory agencies to enable effective enforcement and monitoring of privacy practices. Additionally, mechanisms for holding businesses accountable for violations and data breaches should be in place to maintain consumer trust.


Federal privacy legislation holds great potential to establish a comprehensive framework that safeguards consumer privacy and addresses regulatory gaps. However, it is vital to acknowledge and navigate the potential pitfalls and challenges associated with such legislation. Balancing the interests of various stakeholders, harmonizing state and federal authority, ensuring compliance across jurisdictions, and addressing the evolving technological landscape are key considerations.

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system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

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