Congress Cracks Down on Tech with Data Privacy Laws and TikTok Regulations

Congress Cracks Down on Tech with Data Privacy Laws and TikTok Regulations

Push for Federal Data Privacy Legislation

data privacy laws

Congress is making a major push to regulate big tech companies and platforms like never before. Two significant pieces of legislation are gaining momentum that could fundamentally change the tech landscape if passed into law.

First, bipartisan groups in the House and Senate have proposed the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) – a comprehensive federal privacy bill that would establish new rules around how companies can collect, use, and share consumer data. The bill grants consumers rights like the ability to access, correct, delete and download the personal data companies hold on them. It would require large companies to minimize data collection and allow consumers to opt-out of targeted advertising, data transfers, and the use of algorithms for important decisions like employment or housing.

Importantly, the APRA includes a private right of action, allowing individuals to sue companies for violations – a provision that derailed previous privacy bills. The legislation has the critical backing of Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), increasing its chances of advancing compared to prior efforts that lacked her support.

AI Driving New Privacy Urgency

While a federal data privacy law has been discussed for years, the rapid advances in artificial intelligence have provided new urgency. As AI models are trained on massive datasets containing personal information, there are growing concerns around privacy violations, entrenching bias, and lack of transparency and accountability.

To address AI’s unique challenges, some lawmakers want to create public datasets to train AI systems as an alternative to exploiting consumer data. This new bill would create public datasets to train AI and incentivize innovation. There are also calls for new AI regulations around testing for bias, data privacy audits, and human oversight.

TikTok Ban Legislation Revived

At the same time, Congress is renewing efforts to ban or force a sale of the popular video app TikTok over national security worries about its Chinese ownership under ByteDance. The House recently passed an updated version of legislation as part of a broader foreign policy package that could compel ByteDance to divest TikTok within 9-12 months.

The TikTok bill now heads to the Senate, where it has a clearer path than previous standalone bills that stalled. Senate Commerce Chair Cantwell, previously noncommittal, is on board with the new extended divestiture timeline. And by tying it to the must-pass foreign aid package, it will be harder for the Senate to ignore.

New Era of Tech Accountability?

Whether the TikTok ban and comprehensive data privacy legislation can both clear Congress remains to be seen. But the multi-front push represents Congress’ most concerted effort yet to crack down on the largely unregulated tech sector amid growing societal concerns over data privacy, AI ethics, and national security risks.

If the bills pass, they could usher in a new era of accountability and consumer protection. The APRA would empower the FTC and state enforcers to police violations of consumer data rights. The TikTok bill would force a reckoning over the app’s ownership due to fears of Chinese government influence. Together, they signal policymakers’ intent to finally exert control over powerful tech platforms after years of public outcry.


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