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CEOs of 51 companies from the Business Roundtable, including Amazon, IBM and Salesforce, signed a letter to U.S. congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to create "a comprehensive consumer data privacy law."
The executives, who span a range of industries, said a federal law is necessary to ensure "strong, consistent protections for American consumers" and allow "American companies to continue to lead a globally competitive market." The letter was addressed to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce committees and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committees, in addition to House and Senate leaders.
"As Chief Executive Officers of leading companies across industries, our companies reach virtually every American consumer and rely on data and digital platforms every day to deliver and improve our products and services," the CEOs wrote in the letter. "Consumer trust and confidence are essential to our businesses. We are committed to protecting consumer privacy and want consumers to have confidence that companies treat their personal information responsibly."
The letter comes as lawmakers have been more closely scrutinizing Big Tech over its data practices. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued two major fines to Google and Facebook over their handling of user data. And on Monday, 50 attorneys general from U.S. states and territories announced an investigation into Google's advertising business, which heavily relies on data. With this new message, tech leaders are offering their help in forming legislation that could regulate their own industry.
"We urgently need a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law to strengthen consumer trust and establish a stable policy environment in which new services and technologies can flourish within a well-understood legal and regulatory framework," the CEOs said in the letter. "Innovation thrives under clearly defined and consistently applied rules."
The CEOs who signed the letter represented a subset of the Business Roundtable, a group of top executives from U.S. corporations. The group made headlines last month when nearly 200 members signed a statement disavowing shareholder value as the primary focus of a corporation, marking a major shift in business philosophy. Instead, the executives said other considerations, such as investing in employees and dealing ethically with suppliers, should become key business goals.
Notably missing from Tuesday's letter to congressional leaders was Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has been a vocal supporter of data privacy measures. Cook advocated for "a comprehensive federal privacy law" in the U.S. during a speech at a privacy conference in Brussels last year.
Read the full letter below:
Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McCarthy, Chairman Wicker, Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member Cantwell and Ranking Member Walden:
We write to urge you to pass, as soon as possible, a comprehensive consumer data privacy law that strengthens protections for consumers and establishes a national privacy framework to enable continued innovation and growth in the digital economy.
There is now widespread agreement among companies across all sectors of the economy, policymakers and consumer groups about the need for a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law that provides strong, consistent protections for American consumers. A federal consumer privacy law should also ensure that American companies continue to lead a globally competitive market. As Chief Executive Officers of leading companies across industries, our companies reach virtually every American consumer and rely on data and digital platforms every day to deliver and improve our products and services. Consumer trust and confidence are essential to our businesses. We are committed to protecting consumer privacy and want consumers to have confidence that companies treat their personal information responsibly.
We are also united in our belief that consumers should have meaningful rights over their personal information and that companies that access this information should be held consistently accountable under a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law.
Consumers have grown accustomed to a breadth of resources and services made available over the internet across state borders and even globally. Consumers should not and cannot be expected to understand rules that may change depending upon the state in which they reside, the state in which they are accessing the internet, and the state in which the company's operation is providing those resources or services. Now is the time for Congress to act and ensure that consumers are not faced with confusion about their rights and protections based on a patchwork of inconsistent state laws. Further, as the regulatory landscape becomes increasingly fragmented and more complex, U.S. innovation and global competitiveness in the digital economy are threatened.
We urgently need a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law to strengthen consumer trust and establish a stable policy environment in which new services and technologies can flourish within a well-understood legal and regulatory framework. Innovation thrives under clearly defined and consistently applied rules.
Business Roundtable has released a Framework for Consumer Privacy Legislation (attached to this letter), which provides a detailed roadmap of issues that a federal consumer privacy law should address. As the Framework describes, a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law should create robust protections for consumers by requiring businesses to take responsibility for the collection, use and sharing of personal information.
The United States has been a global leader in technology and data-driven innovation and now has the opportunity to lead on consumer data privacy for the benefit of all consumers, companies and commerce. We stand ready to work with you.