Tech giants have been meeting with government officials to develop legislation aimed at protecting users’ data in an industry ripe with controversy over the issue.
Department of Commerce officials said they plan on drafting a set of principles to help with the legislative process in developing legislative language, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
“The goal of this outreach is to formulate a set of principles that enjoy broad support, with the objective of setting high level goals for protecting privacy while promoting prosperity,” a senior administration official at the Commerce Department said.
“Recent legislative activity at the state level has heightened calls for federal privacy legislation,” said Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “From my perspective, it appears industry is trying to find a unified position, which I strongly encourage.”
Lawmakers have been skeptical of big tech companies’ ability to regulate themselves when it comes to protecting users’ data. Four Republican lawmakers sent open letters on July 9 to the CEOs of some of the most powerful tech companies in the world, including Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
Walden, Republican Reps. Bob Latta of Ohio, Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee wrote the letters demanding answers about the companies’ privacy policies, The Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
“Recent reports have indicated that consumer data gathered through cell phones, including location information and recordings of users, may be used in ways that consumers do not expect,” the letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook reads.
“Recent reports have indicated that consumer data, including location information, recordings of users, and email contents, may be used in ways that consumers do not expect,” reads the appeal to Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet. “We seek Google’s assistance in understanding the accuracy of these reports.”
A Facebook spokesman told TheWSJ the company is “working with policy makers to craft privacy legislation that protects consumers, ensures people are in control of their information and promotes responsible innovation.” (RELATED: Report: Apple Gives Control Over Certain User Data To Chinese Telecom Operator, Despite Privacy Concerns)
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said vice president at IBM Christopher Padilla. “Business is playing a more active role in the dialogue. That’s crucial because if we don’t do something in collaboration with government, none of us will like what’s done to us.”
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