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51 companies tell Congress it's time to tackle data privacy

Amazon, AT&T and Qualcomm are among those involved.
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Phil Roeder via Getty Images

The corporate world isn't waiting around for Congress to get started on tougher data privacy laws. A group of 51 CEOs from the Business Roundtable advocacy group, including tech companies like Amazon, AT&T, IBM, Motorola and Qualcomm, have sent an open letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to pass a "comprehensive consumer data privacy law." They claim that state privacy laws vary too widely, leading to confusion for customers and potentially threatening the US' competitiveness. A federal law would reportedly bolster trust and create a "stable policy environment" where companies can craft products knowing exactly where the boundaries are.

Accordingly, the companies have published a framework for what they'd like to see. They want "robust" protections for data that foster accountability, a "technology neutral" approach that spurs innovation, worldwide interoperability and, of course, a harmonized rule set.

The company list includes some notable omissions, although that doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of interest. Apple chief Tim Cook has separately called for GDPR-style laws, for instance.

Whether or not the focus is really on everyday users is another matter. As ZDNet pointed out, this could be more about protecting the companies' own hides than anything else. Companies continue to run into privacy blunders even after years of data breaches and the resulting penalties. Clear federal laws could help them avoid costly fines and regulatory changes.

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