Lawmakers May Find Common Ground on a Sweeping Privacy Law

Sens. Ted Cruz and Maria Cantwell at a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee meeting on March 1. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Most Americans have done it countless times: Sign up for a new online service, encounter a terms and conditions agreement (with eyes glazing over a wall of text), then click the “accept” button.

Hitting that button gives companies enormous power to gather information and use it as they see fit—often to create detailed, lucrative advertising profiles about users. Most consumers can’t exercise control over that data later or seek legal damages for violations of privacy.

Members of Congress want to change that. Despite little optimism about collaborating on major bills in such a divided atmosphere, lawmakers think they can work together on a comprehensive federal privacy law. And they have backing from the White House: President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to advance new privacy protections during his State of the Union address last month.

For decades, lawmakers have debated the merits of national privacy protections—but they have struggled to agree on how far such legislation should go and, in recent years, whether it should override existing state privacy laws. 

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