US government, tech giants negotiating data privacy policies

The US government is working to develop consumer data privacy policies, and the Commerce Department has met with firms including Facebook, Comcast and Alphabet as it looks to enshrine the policies in legislation, Reuters has reported. 

A person briefed on the matter told Reuters that more than 20 meetings held have been held between the government and tech giants, as well as with internet providers and trade associations. The Washington Post reported details of the meetings on Friday.

Data privacy has become an increasingly important issue, fueled by massive breaches that have compromised personal information of millions of U.S. internet and social media users, spurring Congressional hearings.

California, the most populous U.S. state, and the European Union have both adopted data protection rules.

David Redl, a senior U.S. Commerce Department official who oversees the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said in a speech on Friday to the Internet Governance Forum USA in Washington that the administration recently “began holding stakeholder meetings to identify common ground and formulate core, high-level principles on data privacy.”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the administration, through the White House National Economic Council, “aims to craft a consumer privacy protection policy that is the appropriate balance between privacy and prosperity. … We look forward to working with Congress on a legislative solution consistent with our overarching policy.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, said earlier this year that the personal information of about 70 million U.S. users was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. U.S. lawmakers have also demanded answers from Facebook about the data it shared with four Chinese companies.

Redl said a government survey showed that three-quarters of American households using the internet have “significant concerns” about privacy and security risks.

He added that the administration plans to publish “high-level principles” and seek public comment as it seeks to develop a nationwide data privacy plan.

AT&T said it backs “federal legislation that establishes strong consumer privacy protections that apply to all companies operating on the internet.”


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