Your source for CE industry intelligence
FTC Reviews Amazon/iRobot

Chairman Pallone Pitches ‘Stronger’ Privacy Bill to Pelosi

The House Commerce Committee’s bipartisan privacy legislation is stronger than California’s privacy law, Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said Thursday. He hopes to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other skeptical members that the bill should set the national privacy standard.

Start A Trial

Pelosi said earlier this month the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which the committee passed 53-2 in July (see 2207200061), isn’t strong enough to replace protections like those in California (see 2209010066). With three months left in the session to pass the bill and get it to President Joe Biden’s desk, Pallone told a Washington Post event Thursday: “I think we can do it in this time period. ... The bill is actually stronger than the California law. ... It’s a question of really trying to convince the Californians, which I think we did for the most part in the committee, that this is truly a stronger law and it doesn’t preclude them from innovation.”

One state shouldn’t be “dictating to the rest of the country what the privacy laws should be,” said ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., during the livestream. Asked if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also from California, has committed to taking up the bill if Republicans win the House, Rodgers said, “It’s a priority for Republicans,” but she will continue trying to sway Pelosi. Pallone noted the House bill has stronger protections than California for minimizing the data companies collect from consumers. Bill sponsors need to convince Pelosi and others who might have doubts that this is a “very strong national standard,” he said: Sponsors aren’t opposed to additional changes to the bill language, but it needs to be a strong, bipartisan national standard.

The FTC needs to move forward with its privacy rulemaking because Congress may not act, Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter told a Politico event Thursday. The rulemaking could potentially take less than four or five years, despite longer estimations based on the agency’s burdensome Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking requirements, said Slaughter: “My fear -- I’ve been saying this for three years -- the worst case scenario is not that we start a rulemaking process and Congress intervenes and passes legislation. The worst case scenario is we don’t start the process and Congress doesn't pass a law and the status quo persists.”

Slaughter urged Congress to pass the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act (HR-3843), which the House passed by a 242-184 vote Thursday (see 2209290057 and 2209260060). It’s “common sense” legislation based on bipartisan principles that will help antitrust enforcers do their jobs, Slaughter said. The FTC is routinely outmatched at least 10-1 in terms of agency attorneys versus corporate attorneys in litigation, she said. The FTC is “small but mighty,” but at some point Goliath is too much for David to handle, she said. Slaughter said the agency gets letters from Congress every week asking the FTC to do more.

A bicameral group of Democrats asked the FTC Thursday to oppose Amazon’s $1.7 billion acquisition of iRobot. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote the letter with Reps. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y.; Katie Porter, D-Calif.; Mark Pocan, D-Wis.; Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; and Jesus Garcia, D-Ill. They noted iRobot “dominates the smart vacuum market with 75% market share by revenue,” and Amazon previously tried to compete with iRobot’s Roomba vacuum before putting the in-house product on hold in 2020. The deal would give Amazon “access to the inside of homes through Roomba’s mapping technology, building on the access it bought with the Ring and Blink purchases in 2017 and 2018 and effectively giving Amazon ‘eyes and ears’ inside the home -- the stated goal of the company since at least 2017,” they wrote. The FTC confirmed it received the letter. Amazon didn’t comment.