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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to report the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) to the full House of Representatives. The vote at the end of debate over several amendments was an overwhelming 53–2 in favor of the final bill, including support and sponsorship from the committee’s Democratic and Republican leadership alike. 

The committee passed the bill with a large margin of support on both sides of the aisle, clearing the way for ongoing discussions about the potential for similarly bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate.

In 2019, Free Press Action and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released model legislation designed to refocus the online privacy debate on abusive data practices that constitute violations of internet users’ civil rights. The ADPPA makes good on several of the key concepts advanced in that model bill, as it prohibits online platforms and other entities from collecting, processing and sharing people’s data in ways that discriminate “on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.”

The ADPPA provides new rulemaking and enforcement powers for the Federal Trade Commission while also creating a private right of action for people who want to go to court to vindicate the new rights created by the bill. The legislation greatly reduces the amount of information that websites and apps could gather and use to target vulnerable individuals and groups, limiting data collection and use to only what is necessary and proportionate for providing a service that the user requests. And it creates special protections for especially sensitive data like Social Security numbers, biometric information, genetic markers and precise geolocation data.

Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said:

“Today’s resounding approval of this comprehensive bipartisan privacy bill is a giant leap forward for protecting people’s data from rampant abuse. Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House’s key committee broke decades-old logjams on several key issues and previously intractable stumbling blocks.

“The pinnacle of the ADPPA is its recognition that data rights are civil rights — and its strong framework empowering the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies to prohibit violations that stem from discrimination, exploitation and selective targeting of people of color and other protected groups.

“Much of the discussion leading up to and during today’s committee markup was about the bill’s effect on privacy laws enacted in California and other states. But according to leading privacy advocates and civil-rights groups, the ADPPA is at least as strong as those state frameworks. And the bill would provide sorely needed privacy protections to people throughout the entire United States, not just those who live in certain jurisdictions.

“As we look forward to the full House taking up the ADPPA, Free Press Action is eager for this long-awaited moment to place civil rights at the forefront of online protections, and as the centerpiece of this truly thoughtful and hard-won compromise.”

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