The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee held the inaugural hearing of the Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee in the 118th Congress. The hearing titled “Economic Danger Zone: How America Competes to Win the Future Versus China” discussed the United States’ competitiveness and global technological leadership, honing in on data privacy and security. Brandon Pugh, R Street’s Policy Director for Cybersecurity and Emerging Threats, was one of four witnesses invited to testify during this hearing.

R Street has advocated for a comprehensive federal data privacy and security law to provide consistent rights and protections for consumers, certainty for business and stronger data security safeguards. The intersection of privacy and security, including how national security and data security should be key drivers in passing a federal privacy and security law, was the central message of Pugh’s testimony. He focused his analysis on China, given the topic of the hearing.

The hearing opened with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) discussing the committee’s vital role in advancing American competitiveness and global technological leadership. She stated that China’s vision of the future is adverse to American values, like freedom of speech and privacy. Rodgers reaffirmed her interest and the importance of passing comprehensive privacy and data security protections with one national standard. Subcommittee Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) discussed recapturing and maintaining the U.S. technology global leadership by working on getting last year’s American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) across the finish line this year.

Members discussed potential bipartisan solutions to address how the United States can fight for global leadership in the age of emerging technology. The hearing primarily centered on threats to American leadership, data privacy and security threats and solutions, and risks and opportunities posed by emerging technologies and the supply chain.

The Intersection of National Security and Data Privacy and Security

Pugh emphasized that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a history of widespread data collection on its citizens and individuals around the world, including Americans. He highlighted that the United States and China rivalry has taken on a digital nature, where China has competed in emerging technologies from artificial intelligence to military-specific technology. Pugh stressed that a comprehensive federal data privacy and security law, like the ADPPA that had bipartisan, bicameral support last Congress, is a logical next step in helping to mitigate these concerns. Many members spoke in favor of the ADPPA and the need for the 118th Congress to prioritize it.

Benefits of Data Privacy and Security Legislation

Pugh conveyed several aspects of how a comprehensive data privacy and security law would benefit national security. He highlighted how multiple parts of the ADPPA would have advanced this interest, including the notice for when data is transferred to select countries like China, data minimization, creating a united response through preemption and building in data security requirements. Pugh stressed how the value of passing a federal law would add to competitiveness since others around the world have acted, including China, and the United States has not. In addition, he discussed how there are threats from Chinese applications, software and hardware that warrant action.

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) asked Pugh to speak on the seriousness of delaying privacy and security legislation like the ADPPA. Pugh emphasized that passing legislation in this Congress is “paramount” in protecting all Americans, including children, military members and intelligence communities, from malicious actors and adversarial nations.

Other Topics Explored

Members on both sides of the aisle asked Pugh about different areas of data privacy and security, along with broader aspects of cybersecurity and national security. These included how the privacy and security of children can be preserved, considering the unique needs of businesses of all sizes, the value of a preemptive framework, specific considerations with autonomous vehicles, internet of things (IoT) risks and labels, and how to mitigate emerging technology and artificial intelligence concerns while fostering innovation.    

R Street’s Position

The R Street Institute has supported a comprehensive national privacy and security law to promote global competitiveness, reduce data security and national security risks, and provide all Americans with privacy protections. 

Written Testimony: Link
Video: Link

Image credit: beebright