As lawmakers move forward on developing federal privacy legislation, executives from Amazon, Apple, Google and Twitter appeared before a Senate panel to discuss what a federal data privacy bill should look like. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) opened the panel’s data privacy hearing, explaining that “The question is no longer whether we need a federal law to protect consumers’ privacy. The question is what shape that law should take.”

Why would a federal data privacy law matter to fashion and retail? Data has tremendous value for both brands and consumers, with the appropriate privacy and security safeguards in place. Well-managed consumer data allows more relevant product recommendations, smart apparel that responds to body temperature and movement, and the ability to simply stay engaged with shoppers.

Hearing Highlights. The Senate committee members and tech executives covered various aspects of developing a federal privacy law—from consumer choice and transparency to whether the Federal Trade Commission needs additional enforcement tools to adequately protect consumer privacy. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) also mentioned the importance of handling federal preemption and the states’ roles in privacy enforcement, as well as the state attorneys general. California recently adopted its new consumer privacy and data security law, and as more states consider privacy legislation, organizations will be forced to deal with a patchwork of laws.

The committee members also asked the witnesses about their current efforts in complying with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—which took effect in May. While companies like Apple and Google have the resources for GDPR compliance, lawmakers and stakeholders crafting a federal privacy bill should carefully consider costs for startups and small and medium sized businesses.

The Committee plans to hold future privacy hearings with stakeholders from the EU, California and interest groups. We invite you to join us at FIA and on social media for future privacy policy updates.

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