GDPR USA? 'A year ago, hell no ... More people are open to it now' – House Rep says EU-like law may be mulled

Mega-hacks nudge Congress to consider privacy standard


The rash of high-profile IT security breaches, data thefts, and other hacks that have erupted over the last year or so may push US legislators to consider laws similar to Europe's privacy-protecting GDPR.

This is according to Representative Will Hurd (R-TX), who told attendees at the Aspen Cyber Summit in San Francisco today that revisiting the EU's hard-line safeguards for personal information, activated in May, could be on the agenda in America when a Democrat-controlled House begins its next session in January. For the next two months, Republicans still hold that side of Congress.

"One of the things we will be looking at is GDPR. Is it working, is it not working, is it something that we may be moving to?" Hurd told attendees at the cyber-shindig.

"A year ago, the answer would have been not 'no,' but 'hell no.' I think more people are open to that now because of some of the breaches."

Indeed, the GOP had no time for the EU's drive to strictly regulate how companies collect, store, and share customer information, giving GDPR short shrift. A Dem-led House may have other ideas. And although the Senate is still controlled by the Republicans, and thus may block any attempt to develop a GDPR-style regime in America, the mega-hacks in recent months and years may change some of their minds.

From what we've gathered, a string of high-profile computer network breaches seems to have changed attitudes, and Washington DC may be willing to reexamine Europe's way of enforcing privacy.

Data protection, American style

Hurd – who is chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – told The Register that no legislation is planned right now. Anything introduced, he added, would be far from a carbon copy of the EU's controversial personal privacy standards.

Rather, he explained, the US would reevaluate, with an open mind, some of the concepts of a law that a year ago he and most of his peers would not have touched with a ten-foot pole.

Map of Europe, with lock symbolizing GDPR

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"We need to be evaluating what our friends across the Atlantic did because it is still coming up in conversations about privacy here in the United States," the ex-CIA Texas Rep said. "I think a component of the privacy conversation in the 116th Congress is going to be, is GDPR working, and how is that impacting the United States?"

At least one US state is not waiting for the federal government to take action. Earlier this year California passed its own strict privacy standards, with plans to put it into effect in January 2020.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that, over the coming year, the Golden State would look to strike a balance between privacy and convenience, but a central tenet will be shifting more responsibility for data protection to companies, and pursue charges against companies that don't take proper care of customer information.

"I would say to any company that wants to collect data, it is like having a baby. If you drop that baby in the wrong way, you've committed a crime," said Becerra.

"Our job is to make sure you are responsible in the way you handle that baby." ®

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