Today you can buy everything from groceries to plane tickets using your phone. Ride-sharing services are making it easier for people with disabilities to get to work. Telehealth services are bringing doctors into our living rooms. Across the board, technology is improving our standard of living. It’s also changing how we interact with one another and the information we share with other parties.

How are companies and third parties using our data? Who can they share it with? What data security safeguards are they using? How are entrepreneurs using data to improve services and create new products?

In order for our nation to maintain a robust internet economy and continue to be the best place in the world to innovate, these questions require forward-thinking and thoughtful answers. That’s why this Congress must lead on a bipartisan solution that promotes innovation, protects consumers and sets clear rules for data privacy in America.

To achieve these goals, privacy legislation must have these four principles.

First, there needs to be one national standard. With California’s new data regulatory regime, and other states moving in their own directions, a national standard will provide certainty to consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Imagine the hardship many different state laws would create. What would it mean for someone in Washington who buys something online from a small business in Oregon to ship to their family in Idaho? This is a regulatory minefield that will force businesses to comply with the strictest state laws and raise prices on customers.

Second, a national standard needs to target only data practices that have caused people harm. In its best uses, data has made it possible for grocery aisles to be organized based on how people shop. By exchanging our data with Google, we receive free email and photo storage.

Ride-sharing services can analyze traffic patterns and real-time data on accidents to get you home safer and faster. The data that tells businesses how people use their website and what people are sharing on social media, creates a constant loop of customer-service changes to improve products and services.

Heavy-handed regulations for all data will hold back innovation that saves us time, makes our roads safer and improves customer experiences. A better approach is for increased transparency and accountability for consumers so we can stop bad actors, such as Cambridge Analytica.

Third, in addition to a national standard for privacy, we need to improve data security practices. People rightfully expect that companies take reasonable steps to protect personally identifiable information, like our Social Security numbers. Just like we need to foster innovation in data privacy, Congress should look for a bipartisan solution that incentivizes the best tools to keep data secure in an ever-changing technology ecosystem.

Finally, a national standard needs to be workable for small businesses and startups, who are the true drivers of our economy. While large companies can navigate a complicated privacy standard like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and swallow $1 million to $10 million in compliance costs, smaller businesses are being forced out of the marketplace. This is already happening in Europe. Facebook and Google’s market shares have actually increased since GDPR, but small businesses are suffering. For example, Uber Entertainment, a video game company based in Washington, is shutting down games in Europe because it’s too costly to update its software to comply with GDPR.

America is leading the world in technological innovation, and in doing so we’ve improved the lives of millions of people all over the world.

These four principles in federal privacy legislation will empower us to continue leading the world and protect consumers while we do it. These are the consensus points that both Republicans and Democrats can come together on, and I’m urging my colleagues to do just that.

This is how we lay the groundwork with a solution that leads us into the future and a stronger 21st Century economy.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents Washington state’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Walla Walla and Columbia counties, and is the Republican leader on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over data privacy and other technology issues, along with consumer protection.  

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