The US Commerce Department said it was seeking comments on how to set nationwide data privacy rules. Photo: File
INTERNATIONAL – The US Commerce Department on Tuesday said it was seeking comments on how to set nationwide data privacy rules in the wake of tough new requirements adopted by the EU and California this year.

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a privacy hearing on Wednesday with major companies including Alphabet, AT&T, Apple. This summer, the Trump administration held more than 50 meetings with tech companies, internet providers, privacy advocates and others.

Data privacy has become an increasingly important issue since massive breaches compromised the personal information of millions of US internet and social media users, as well as breaches involving large retailers and credit reporting agency Equifax.

Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued the request for comment after noting “a growing number of foreign countries, and some US states, have articulated distinct visions for how to address privacy concerns, leading to a nationally and globally fragmented regulatory landscape.”

The administration said companies and other organisations that use consumer data should be transparent about how they use personal information, individuals should be able to exercise control over personal information and data use “should be reasonably minimised”.

David Redl, who heads NTIA, said “the Trump administration is beginning this conversation to solicit ideas on a path for adopting privacy to today’s data-driven world”.

The Internet Association, which represents more than 40 major internet and technology companies, said this month it backed modernising data privacy rules but wants a national approach that would pre-empt new regulations in California that take effect in 2020.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed data privacy legislation in June aimed at giving consumers more control over how companies collect and manage their personal information, although it was not as stringent as new rules in Europe.

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation took effect in May, replacing the bloc’s patchwork of rules dating back to 1995.

Breaking privacy laws can now result in fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue or €20 million (R336 million), whichever is higher, as opposed to a few hundred thousand euros.

Also testifying Wednesday will be Twitte, and Charter Communications to give them “an opportunity to explain their approaches to privacy,” said US Senator John Thune.

Google on Monday said it backed “responsible, interoperable and adaptable data protection regulations” as it offered a list of principles.