House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Data Privacy and Security

On March 1, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on data security, mass data collection, and the need to protect Americans’ privacy in the wake of resulting targeted ads and the vulnerability of consumer data. Salient points regarding the necessity for data security, with implications for researchers and anyone concerned about privacy standards were discussed at length.  Witnesses included President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology Alexandra Reeve Givens, Founder and Chief Product Officer of Anonym Graham Mudd, and Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor for Consumer Protection at Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP Jessica Rich.

The witnesses explained that scammers with access to American data can “target their schemes” to seniors or those seeking gateways to socioeconomic progress,” pointing out that targeting of certain social or economic groups based on patterns of behavior is harmful to our society. These data sets are even being used in job application processes to screen applicants based on their social and behavioral factors. Givens noted that “without advancing legislation on [national data security], we will see more social and economic harm.” Companies are even making inferences with data sets and using it in targeting of teenagers facing mental health issues. Many committee members, including Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Vice Chair Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) mentioned needing to protect children’s safety. A prominent theme of the hearing was the danger posed by failures of the American Government to secure sensitive data, which leads to massive data breaches and identity theft and stifles American innovation. Members of the Committee also discussed efforts to create a national data privacy standard that raises the bar for baseline safeguards past what was already accomplished in the last Congress’ American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA).

A full recording of the hearing can be found here.


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