When Congress reconvenes in January, Democrats will be in control of the House for the first time in eight years. Lawmakers will continue to discuss privacy and cybersecurity issues, including whether there should be a federal standard for how companies should be allowed to use and safeguard consumer data and how to stop cyberattacks from foreign entities.
“When there’s a divided Congress that’s unlikely to be able to move forward with controversial issues such as middle-class tax cuts or reforming health care, then it becomes more likely that lawmakers will seek to address and bring to the fore issues like privacy that have been percolating and have bipartisan agreement,” said Drobac.
Republican and Democrat lawmakers have proposed standards around data security, breach notifications and privacy in the past decades. Leadership of the Commerce, Judiciary and Intelligence committees will determine the priority of these issues.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is expected to take over the House Commerce Committee and “has been incredibly eager to do research and to get information from companies about what privacy practices and safeguards have been put in place for consumers,” Drobac said.
He added that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), who will likely become chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has shown an interest in making tweaks to the privacy landscape so companies are not dealing with a patchwork of privacy laws. The House Judiciary Committee may work to craft meaningful notice and disclosure regulations that make sense for members of the digital ecosystem under the expected leadership of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
Pallone, Nadler and Wicker “have shown an affinity and interest in doing a deep dive into what has taken place with the tech industry and how that compares with consumers’ expectations, and what needs to be done to address different laws that have been imposed and have been enacted in other states and countries, and they are likely to take leadership on these issues,” Drobac said.
Other influencing factors include former tech executive Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who could lead the Commerce Committee if current ranking member Bill Nelson loses his re-election race in Florida, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is expected to take over the House Intelligence Committee and reopen inquiries into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.