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AG coalition tells feds to keep its hands off state-level privacy laws

Letter from attorneys general says preemptive laws could hamper digital threat response
AG coalition tells feds to keep its hands off state-level privacy laws

If anything unites the States, it is that none of them like to be told what to do, and that includes the matter of digital privacy laws. A group of attorneys general from fifteen states has submitted a letter to congress pushing for the removal of a preemption clause from the current draft of the federal American Privacy Rights Act (APRA). A release from Attorney General Rob Bonta of California – which has the strongest privacy laws in the U.S. – says that as-is, APRA would result in California’s landmark privacy law being replaced with weaker protections and “hamper the ability of California to adequately protect the privacy of its citizens in the future.”

“Federal action to protect Americans’ privacy is essential, but not at the expense of the robust protections already in place in California and in states across the country,” says Bonta. “California is at the forefront of privacy protections and must retain the ability to respond to privacy concerns as tech rapidly innovates. States must be able to protect their residents from evolving privacy threats.”

Others clearly agree. Attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the District of Columbia all signed Bonta’s letter. The text encourages congress to “adopt legislation that sets a federal floor, not a ceiling, for critical privacy rights and respects the important work already undertaken by states to provide strong privacy protections for our residents.” The need to remain flexible is a key theme. States face the same deluge of deepfakes and AI-driven fraud happening across digital ecosystems, and federal bureaucracy, say the states, could make agile responses impossible.

California passed the first comprehensive privacy law in 2018. The California Consumer Privacy Act and other related laws give Californians strong data protection and a great deal of control over their data. Part of this is a matter of political will, as both Attorney General Bonta and California Governor Gavin Newsom have been active in pursuing and enforcing robust privacy policies. Expect to hear more from them as APRA moves closer to legislative reality.

Ohio AG trades legal challenges with NetChoice over parental consent law

Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost is also making a case for data protection laws, as he trades lawsuits with industry lobby group NetChoice over a state law that would require children under 16 to prove parental consent before opening social media accounts. Law360 reports that both Yost and NetChoice have filed motions for summary judgment on the Parental Notification by Social Media Operators Act.

NetChoice, which represents major social platforms including Meta, Google and Pinterest as well as digital firms like Pindrop, Expedia and PayPal, argues that the Ohio law violates First Amendment rights. Yost disagrees, saying that the law does not govern content but rather whom social media companies are allowed to contract. He calls it “an economic regulation.”

Nonetheless, the AG faces a steep hill in convincing the courts to accept his law, as U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, with whom the suits were filed, has previously blocked Yost from enforcing the law, calling it a “breathtakingly blunt” legal tool.

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