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Pallone Releases GAO Data Privacy Report, Announces First E&C Privacy Hearing this Congress

Feb 13, 2019
Press Release
Independent Report Recommends Congress Develop Comprehensive Internet Privacy Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today recommending that Congress develop comprehensive internet data privacy legislation to enhance consumer protections while maintaining flexibility to address a rapidly evolving Internet.  Chairman Pallone requested the report nearly two years ago in the wake of the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) strong 2016 broadband privacy rule. 

Chairman Pallone and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) also announced that the Committee will hold its first privacy hearing this Congress, in the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, on February 26.

“Since I requested this report, the need for comprehensive data privacy and security legislation at the federal level has only become more apparent.  From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the unauthorized disclosures of real-time location data, consumers’ privacy is being violated online and offline in alarming and dangerous ways,” Pallone said.

As part of its investigation, GAO interviewed former FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials from the Bush and Obama Administrations, as well as consumer advocates, academics and industry professionals.  Most of those interviewed highlighted the need for broad congressional action to protect consumer privacy.   

“This detailed GAO report makes clear now is the time for comprehensive congressional action on privacy that should include ensuring any agency that oversees consumer privacy has the tools to protect consumers,” Pallone continued.  “These recommendations and findings will be helpful as we look to develop privacy legislation in the coming months.”

“Americans treasure their right to privacy.  While advances in technology have fostered numerous consumer benefits, they also have enabled companies to vacuum up massive amounts of consumer data.  From the 2017 Equifax data breach, putting more than 143 million consumers at risk of losing personal information, to the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, we have seen time and again that self-regulation is not protecting consumers,” Schakowsky said.

“Congress needs to act, and this hearing is an important first step,” Schakowsky continued.  “The American people are counting on us to deliver real results for them, and I will work with my colleagues to get it done.”

The GAO report recommends Congress consider certain issues in which Internet privacy oversight can be advanced, including:

  • Enacting an overarching federal privacy statue to establish general requirements governing Internet privacy practices of all sectors.
  • Ensuring that the overseeing agency or agencies have notice-and-comment rulemaking authority to provide clarity, enforcement fairness, and flexibility.
  • Increasing effectiveness of the overseeing agency by providing authority to impose civil penalties for first-time violations.

Click HERE to read GAO’s report.