Google Releases Proposed Privacy Framework in Advance of Senate Committee Hearing

Chief privacy officer will testify before Senate on Wednesday

The guidelines that Google released encourage baseline federal rules, a set of best practices for companies and a level of flexibility for companies when meeting legal requirements.
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Two days before a scheduled Senate hearing on consumer data privacy, Google has released a proposed data protection regulation framework for any potential federal privacy laws that could impact the digital advertising industry.

In a blog post and accompanying document, Google chief privacy officer Keith Enright wrote that Google supported some privacy regulation, which he said “can support a dynamic marketplace for businesses of all types and sizes.”

“Now, more than any other time I have worked in this field, there is real momentum to develop baseline rules of the road for data protection,” Enright wrote. “Google welcomes this and supports comprehensive, baseline privacy protection. People deserve to feel comfortable that all entities that use personal information will be held accountable for protecting it.”

The guidelines that Google released encourage baseline federal rules, a set of best practices for companies and a level of flexibility for companies when meeting legal requirements. Additionally, the framework urges for “global interoperability” that allows for data to be shared and processed outside the country easily, discouraging regulation that would allow individuals “to control every aspect of data processing.”

The full framework can be read in full here.

Enright is slated to appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during a hearing about consumer data privacy on Wednesday. Executives from Apple, Twitter, AT&T, Amazon and Charter Communications are also slated to attend and testify.

In the wake of the passage of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), tech and advertising companies have braced for copycat legislation that has already begun appearing in statehouses in the U.S. The California Consumer Privacy Act, which was passed in June and will go into effect in 2020, will give consumers the ability to opt out of data collection and request the information that corporations have collected on them.

In July, the Trump administration reportedly began working on a set of federal consumer data privacy policies with help from data collection behemoths like Google and Facebook. Google, which has faced increasing public scrutiny for everything from its data collection practices to its work on a censored search engine in China, is facing investigations in New Mexico and Arizona for its data collection practices.

The digital advertising industry has begun pushing for federal data privacy rules that would supersede any potential state efforts to more aggressively curb the industry’s data collection and privacy practices. On Monday afternoon, David Grimaldi, evp of public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, released a letter urging the development and adoption of federal rules as opposed to a “patchwork of varying state laws,” he wrote.

“A uniform Federal privacy standard could provide clarity [and] market certainty and add fuel to future innovation while preserving the value and benefit that online advertising brings to the internet ecosystem,” Grimaldi wrote.

In an email, Jason Kint, CEO of trade association Digital Content Next, said he thought Google’s release of the framework was an attempt for the company to go on the offensive in the lead-up to the hearing.

“The industry needs to take a hard look at Google’s data collection and usage practices, particularly those happening passively, out of context, when the user has no idea they are even interacting with Google,” Kint said. “Google dominates nearly every dimension of digital media, recognizing most users in their daily activities, and I think you’ll find this framework only accelerates its dominance.”

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