January 20th marked the start of the Biden-Harris administration in the U.S. While there are many expectations and demands for action by this new administration, the Biden-Harris team must set priorities. For the data privacy and protection world, the hope is for attention to key issues that impact global privacy and data protection. Namely, the hope is that a fragmented state law approach becomes solid, cohesive federal privacy legislation and much that needed clarity arrives for data transfers following the breakdown of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.
But what indications do we have about potential movement by the new administration on these issues? What intentions might the Biden-Harris administration hold for data privacy and protection in that country and abroad? While we cannot know for sure, here are some indicators that give us an idea of how the new administration values data privacy and protection and may move forward.
Vice-President Harris may be a pivotal force in the push for changes in the data privacy and protection arena. As Attorney General of California, Vice-President Harris took a prominent stance on issues of data privacy. Nestled amongst the Silicon-Valley tech giants, under her authority, the AGs office set a priority to challenge the big players in the tech space, making mobile privacy a key priority. In 2013, her office released a key report, entitled “Privacy on the Go”, with key privacy recommendations for developers, advertisers and others in the mobile app ecosystem. Under her guidance, the AGs office began to release an annual data breach report that provides statistics on data breaches reported to her office. In 2015, her office released guidance on managing smartphones and tracking systems. And let us not forget that her legacy includes strengthening an AG office for the task of monitoring the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
As a U.S. Senator, Kamala Harris continued bolstering her record as an advocate for data privacy and protection. In 2018, she took center stage in the questioning of Mark Zuckerberg at the hearing concerning the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal.
While Biden’s record on data privacy and protection is harder to pin down, a recent Slate article offers some insight to his intentions: “While the Obama administration was known as being tech-friendly, Biden appears ready to break with that precedent. In addition to revoking the liability shield, he has signaled an openness to policy reforms on other hot-button tech issues, calling for stronger privacy standards, increased investment in rural broadband and a look at whether large online platforms should be broken up.” And on privacy issues, Biden is quoted in the article as saying, the U.S. should be “setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy.”