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At the State of the Net 2020 conference in Washington, DC, Internet Association (IA) Deputy General Counsel Elizabeth Banker participated in a panel titled “Federal Privacy Sticking Points: From Preemption to PRA…And Everything in Between.”

Banker joined moderator Kyle Daly of Axios, as well as fellow panelists including Workday Public Policy Managing Director Jason Albert, Center for Democracy & Technology Interim Co-CEO Chris Calabrese, and former Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich.

The panel began with a discussion on current privacy legislation including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Banker highlighted the importance of having standard privacy practices for both businesses and consumers.

Being able to harmonize your privacy practices on a global basis is really important for companies, but also benefits consumers.

Elizabeth Banker

Banker also discussed the need for a federal privacy law, rather than a patchwork of state laws. Using the example of California and Nevada, she explained that conflicting laws in various states create significant issues for businesses and consumers alike.

So we have two states that neighbor each other with people who every day go back and forth, and the idea that their rights are different, depending on which side of that border they’re on, is a really bad consumer experience.

Elizabeth Banker

The conversation then shifted to how a patchwork of state laws might impact small businesses. Banker pointed out that a small business may not have the time and resources to monitor new laws and regulations.

A small business is not going to be able to monitor court cases around the country to check to see how various courts, and various AGs, are interpreting the law, but if you’re engaged in online commerce you’re likely servicing customers all over the country and could potentially be subject to every states’ laws…It’s an important discussion to have — how to make sure consumers have adequate remedies and there’s good enforcement, but at the same time maintain the regulatory clarity that is needed for small businesses to comply.

Elizabeth Banker

Banker was then asked how the conversation around privacy has changed since last year. She emphasized that the growing amount of proposals and laws in states and at the federal level has allowed people to create informed comparisons and encourages action nationally. 

I think [the momentum] will continue because people understand that what is happening with the patchwork in the states really does necessitate some federal action to ensure that not just consumers in California or Nevada have privacy rights, but that all consumers in the U.S. have privacy rights.

Elizabeth Banker

Finally, the conversation shifted toward the potential for congressional action on privacy legislation. Banker expressed optimism and highlighted that there are more similarities than differences in the different pieces of current legislation.

The drafts we’re looking at right now really do have more in common than they do in terms of differences, and I think that provides a lot of hope that by focusing on how to bridge those gaps we can get to the place where there’s a solution that’s acceptable to everyone…I’m hopeful that Congress will continue to feel the urgency around this issue.

Elizabeth Banker
  • Read IA’s New York Times op-ed on the need for federal privacy legislation here.
  • See comments from IA President and CEO Michael Beckerman on the government’s role in protecting data privacy here.
  • For more info on IA’s position on privacy issues, visit