The most important actions Congress can take on tech
While the obvious answer is probably the correct one — “pass an effective federal privacy law” — an under-the-radar action could prove to be quite important in the long run: taking a step toward establishing an international research center focused on the study of online harms without undermining data security and privacy. Section 5860 of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act directs the State Department to initiate multilateral discussions with allies with the goal of creating such a center, consulting with key nongovernmental stakeholders including digital platforms, researchers and privacy advocates.
Independent research on digital platforms is important, and yet even those companies that are eager to help face both legal and practical obstacles in providing meaningful access. Future researcher access mandates, starting with the Digital Services Act in the European Union, will grow these challenges. And individual jurisdiction solutions, such as the code of conduct developed by the European Digital Media Observatory and George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics, won’t help researchers in other regions, nor will it allow research efforts to reach a broader geographic scale.
One long-term solution is to create an international center for research on the information environment — a “CERN for the internet.” Initiating such a collaboration provides the U.S. with a rare opportunity for global leadership in internet policy. Yet the Senate NDAA doesn’t contain an equivalent of the House’s Section 5860. Including the House’s language in the final bill is among the simplest, and yet the most important, actions Congress can take on tech right now.
[For more on the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), read R Street’s analysis here.]