American Privacy Rights Act poll finding
Visualization of NPI's American Privacy Rights Act of 2024 poll finding (NPI graphic)

Bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion pro­posed by U.S. Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers that would cre­ate a ground­break­ing fed­er­al data pri­va­cy law is extreme­ly pop­u­lar with vot­ers in the Pacif­ic North­west, who favor it by a more than sev­en-to-one mar­gin, a recent tri-state sur­vey con­duct­ed for NPI has found.

67% of 1,012 like­ly Novem­ber 2024 vot­ers sur­veyed last month by Civiqs for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Ida­ho say they sup­port the pro­posed Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act of 2024, while only 9% are opposed. 

A sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age, 24%, say they aren’t sure.

The leg­is­la­tion nego­ti­at­ed by Cantwell and McMor­ris Rodgers is cur­rent­ly in what’s known as the dis­cus­sion draft stage. That means it’s been put into the form of leg­is­la­tion, but it has­n’t been for­mal­ly intro­duced yet. Cantwell is the Chair of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate and McMor­ris Rodgers is the Chair of the House Ener­gy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House, so they are well posi­tioned to try to get this leg­is­la­tion to Pres­i­dent Biden’s desk. It won’t be easy giv­en the dynam­ics in this Con­gress, but there is a path. 

Past efforts to pass a fed­er­al data pri­va­cy law may have foundered, but this effort ben­e­fits from the lead­er­ship of Sen­a­tor Cantwell, who is wide­ly con­sid­ered to be of the Sen­ate’s sharpest minds on tech­nol­o­gy issues. Cantwell has a lot of trust and cred­i­bil­i­ty with tech com­pa­nies and pri­va­cy advo­cates because of her long track record of push­ing for FISA reforms and oppos­ing bad bills like SOPA and PIPA, which NPI was heav­i­ly involved in work­ing to defeat twelve years ago. 

The basics of the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act of 2024, accord­ing to Cantwell and McMor­ris Rodgers, are as follows:

Estab­lish­es Foun­da­tion­al Uni­form Nation­al Data Pri­va­cy Rights for Americans 

  • Puts peo­ple in con­trol of their own per­son­al data. 
  • Elim­i­nates the patch­work of state laws by set­ting one nation­al pri­va­cy stan­dard, stronger than any state. 
  • Min­i­mizes the data that com­pa­nies can col­lect, keep and use about peo­ple, of any age, to what com­pa­nies actu­al­ly need to pro­vide them prod­ucts and services. 
  • Gives Amer­i­cans con­trol over where their per­son­al infor­ma­tion goes, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to pre­vent the trans­fer or sell­ing of their data. The bill also allows indi­vid­u­als to opt out of data pro­cess­ing if a com­pa­ny changes its pri­va­cy policy. 
  • Pro­vides stricter pro­tec­tions for sen­si­tive data by requir­ing affir­ma­tive express con­sent before sen­si­tive data can be trans­ferred to a third party.
  • Requires com­pa­nies to let peo­ple access, cor­rect, delete and export their data.
  • Allows indi­vid­u­als to opt out of tar­get­ed advertising. 

Gives Amer­i­cans the Abil­i­ty to Enforce Their Data Pri­va­cy Rights

  • Gives indi­vid­u­als the right to sue bad actors who vio­late their pri­va­cy rights—and recov­er mon­ey for dam­ages when they’ve been harmed. 
  • Pre­vents com­pa­nies from enforc­ing manda­to­ry arbi­tra­tion in cas­es of sub­stan­tial pri­va­cy harm.

Pro­tects Amer­i­cans’ Civ­il Rights

  • Stops com­pa­nies from using people’s per­son­al infor­ma­tion to dis­crim­i­nate against them.
  • Allows indi­vid­u­als to opt out of a company’s use of algo­rithms to make deci­sions about hous­ing, employ­ment, health­care, cred­it oppor­tu­ni­ties, edu­ca­tion, insur­ance or access to places of pub­lic accommodation.
  • Requires annu­al reviews of algo­rithms to ensure they do not put indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing our youth, at risk of harm, includ­ing discrimination.

Holds Com­pa­nies Account­able and Estab­lish­es Strong Data Secu­ri­ty Obligations

  • Man­dates strong data secu­ri­ty stan­dards that will pre­vent data from being hacked or stolen. This lim­its the chances for iden­ti­ty theft and harm.
  • Makes exec­u­tives take respon­si­bil­i­ty for ensur­ing that com­pa­nies take all actions nec­es­sary to pro­tect cus­tomer data as required by the law.
  • Ensures indi­vid­u­als know when their data has been trans­ferred to for­eign adversaries.
  • Autho­rizes the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion, states and con­sumers to enforce against violations. 

Focus­es on the Busi­ness of Data, Not Main­street Business

  • Small busi­ness­es, who are not sell­ing their cus­tomers’ per­son­al infor­ma­tion, are exempt from the require­ments of this bill.

Read the dis­cus­sion draft:

MAY24-APRA-Dis­cus­sion-Draft-MUR24230

Although the leg­is­la­tion would pre­empt past as well as future state law­mak­ing on data pri­va­cy, there may not be much of a prac­ti­cal effect. That’s because many states have yet to leg­is­late in this area at all, while key pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions from the few states that have passed data pri­va­cy laws — like Cal­i­for­nia, Indi­ana, or Mary­land — have been rolled into this pro­posed fed­er­al law, which would cov­er the entire country.

In our sur­vey, we did our best to quick­ly sum­ma­rize the key aspects of the law while also not­ing that it would pre­empt states from poten­tial­ly pass­ing stronger data pri­va­cy laws in the future. As you can see, that’s not a deal­break­er for PNW vot­ers. Here’s the exact text of the ques­tion that we asked and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell and Repub­li­can U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers are propos­ing bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion called the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act of 2024, which would cre­ate a first-of-its-kind fed­er­al data pri­va­cy law for the whole coun­try. The pro­posed law would require com­pa­nies to let peo­ple access, cor­rect, delete, and export their sen­si­tive and per­son­al data like bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion. It would also require com­pa­nies to obtain explic­it user per­mis­sion before sell­ing or trans­fer­ring data. Addi­tion­al­ly, Amer­i­cans would be able to com­plete­ly opt out of tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing and bring law­suits against bad actors who vio­late their pri­va­cy rights. How­ev­er, tougher data pri­va­cy laws at the state lev­el, like that of Cal­i­for­ni­a’s, would no longer be in effect. What is your view: do you sup­port or oppose con­gres­sion­al pas­sage of a new fed­er­al data pri­va­cy law that would pre­empt state data pri­va­cy laws?

RESPONSES:

  • Sup­port: 67% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 34%
    • Some­what sup­port: 33%
  • Oppose: 9%
    • Some­what oppose: 5%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 4%
  • Not sure: 24%

Our poll of 1,012 like­ly vot­ers was in the field from April 13th-16th, 2024. 

The sur­vey was con­duct­ed entire­ly online, among select­ed mem­bers of the Civiqs research pan­el, and it has a mar­gin of error of ± 3.4% at the 95% con­fi­dence lev­el. 598 of the respon­dents inter­viewed were from Wash­ing­ton, 246 were from Ore­gon, and 168 were from Ida­ho. (Reflect­ing its larg­er pop­u­la­tion as mea­sured in the last nation­al cen­sus, Wash­ing­ton has as many elec­toral votes as Ore­gon and Ida­ho put togeth­er — twelve! — and that’s why the sam­ple has more Wash­ing­ton vot­ers in it.)

Results by state and political party

Sup­port for the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act of 2024 is strong through­out the region and spans the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum. Democ­rats, Repub­li­cans, and inde­pen­dents are all sup­port­ive, demon­strat­ing that there are still some issues that both draw bipar­ti­san agree­ment and have broad pop­u­lar appeal. 

By state

WASHINGTON

  • Sup­port: 71% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 38%
    • Some­what sup­port: 33%
  • Oppose: 8%
    • Some­what oppose: 4%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 4%
  • Not sure: 22%

OREGON

  • Sup­port: 65% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 32%
    • Some­what sup­port: 33%
  • Oppose: 8%
    • Some­what oppose: 5%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 3%
  • Not sure: 27%

IDAHO

  • Sup­port: 60% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 29%
    • Some­what sup­port: 31%
  • Oppose: 16%
    • Some­what oppose: 6%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 10%
  • Not sure: 23%

By party

DEMOCRATS

  • Sup­port: 71% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 34%
    • Some­what sup­port: 37%
  • Oppose: 5%
    • Some­what oppose: 4%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 1%
  • Not sure: 24%

REPUBLICANS

  • Sup­port: 56% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 31%
    • Some­what sup­port: 25%
  • Oppose: 15%
    • Some­what oppose: 5%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 10%
  • Not sure: 30%

INDEPENDENTS

  • Sup­port: 72% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 38%
    • Some­what sup­port: 34%
  • Oppose: 10%
    • Some­what oppose: 5%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 5%
  • Not sure: 18%

Of note is that inde­pen­dents are, by a slight mar­gin, the most sup­port­ive of the above three groups of vot­ers and have the most inten­si­ty of sup­port. Near­ly two out of five inde­pen­dent vot­ers are strong­ly sup­port­ive, and anoth­er third are some­what sup­port­ive, for a total of more than sev­en out of ten enthusiastic.

Cantwell and McMor­ris Rodgers also have stake­hold­er sup­port for the legislation.

Samir Jain, the Cen­ter for Democ­ra­cy and Tech­nol­o­gy’s Vice Pres­i­dent of Pol­i­cy, char­ac­ter­ized the bill as a renewed oppor­tu­ni­ty to fin­ish the long over­due job of pass­ing a fed­er­al pri­va­cy law. 

“APRA builds on the many pri­or pri­va­cy bills from both par­ties and includes crit­i­cal ele­ments nec­es­sary for an effec­tive pri­va­cy law: data min­i­miza­tion, effec­tive con­sumer rights, pro­hi­bi­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion, restric­tions on data bro­kers, require­ments for data secu­ri­ty, and an enforce­ment regime with com­ple­men­tary roles for the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion (FTC), state Attor­neys Gen­er­al, and indi­vid­u­als,” said Jain. “CDT is encour­aged by the release of the bipar­ti­san and bicam­er­al draft of APRA, and thanks this Com­mit­tee for its bipar­ti­san work to con­sid­er and advance com­pre­hen­sive pri­va­cy leg­is­la­tion. The time for a com­pre­hen­sive fed­er­al pri­va­cy law is long overdue.”

Microsoft is also supportive.

“Con­sumers and busi­ness across the Unit­ed States have long deserved clear, strong, and com­pre­hen­sive pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft­’s Pres­i­dent. “The pri­va­cy bill unveiled by Chairs Cantwell and McMor­ris Rodgers is a good deal.”

“Their will­ing­ness to work across par­ty lines on an issue of com­mon cause has led to a bill that would give all con­sumers in the U.S. robust rights and pro­tec­tions. It would also pro­vide clar­i­ty by estab­lish­ing a nation­al stan­dard. We applaud Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers for their bipar­ti­san lead­er­ship, sup­port their efforts to pass a com­pre­hen­sive fed­er­al pri­va­cy law, and look for­ward to work­ing with the com­mit­tees as the bill moves forward.”

The Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civ­il Rights Under Law is encour­aged too.

“[We] are encour­aged by the new Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act (APRA), a bipar­ti­san and bicam­er­al effort to safe­guard data pri­va­cy and civ­il rights online,” said David Brody, Man­ag­ing Attor­ney of the Dig­i­tal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive. “Pass­ing com­pre­hen­sive pri­va­cy leg­is­la­tion would be a major advance­ment for the pub­lic good. I would like to thank Chair McMor­ris Rodgers and Sen­a­tor Cantwell for pro­duc­ing this impres­sive achievement.”

Less enthu­si­as­tic is the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion (EFF), a long­time cham­pi­on of dig­i­tal lib­er­ties and pri­va­cy. Their team does­n’t like the bil­l’s pre­emp­tion clause. 

“EFF is con­cerned that a new fed­er­al bill would freeze con­sumer data pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions in place, by pre­empt­ing exist­ing state laws and pre­vent­ing states from cre­at­ing stronger pro­tec­tions in the future,” staff attor­ney F. Mario Tru­jil­lo wrote in a post last month. “Fed­er­al law should be the floor on which states can build, not a ceiling.

“We also urge the authors of the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act to strength­en oth­er por­tions of the bill. It should be eas­i­er to sue com­pa­nies that vio­late our rights. The bill should lim­it shar­ing with the gov­ern­ment and expand the def­i­n­i­tion of sen­si­tive data. And it should nar­row excep­tions that allow com­pa­nies to exploit our bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion, our so-called ‘de-iden­ti­fied’ data, and our data obtained in cor­po­rate ‘loy­al­ty’ schemes.”

“Despite our con­cerns with the APRA bill, we are glad Con­gress is piv­ot­ing the debate to a pri­va­cy-first approach to online reg­u­la­tion,” Tru­jil­lo emphasized. 

“Rein­ing in com­pa­nies’ mas­sive col­lec­tion, mis­use, and trans­fer of everyone’s per­son­al data should be the uni­fy­ing goal of those who care about the inter­net. This debate has been absent at the fed­er­al lev­el in the past year, giv­ing breath­ing room to flawed bills that focus on cen­sor­ship and con­tent block­ing, rather than privacy.” 

If Con­gress had strong pro­gres­sive majori­ties in both cham­bers, hold­ing out for a stronger bill as EFF sug­gests would make sense — but that’s not the envi­ron­ment we’re oper­at­ing in. Any pol­i­cy that’s going to reach Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s desk this Con­gress needs to be able to win bipar­ti­san sup­port and not get stymied by a Sen­ate fil­i­buster. Con­sid­er­ing that it is the prod­uct of bicam­er­al, bipar­ti­san nego­ti­a­tions between law­mak­ers on oppo­site ends of the polit­i­cal spec­trum, the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act is a strong, sub­stan­tive bill. In our view, it would be a big improve­ment over the sta­tus quo.

Tru­jil­lo warns of the down­sides of pre­emp­tion, assert­ing: “States are more nim­ble at pass­ing laws to address new pri­va­cy harms as they arise, com­pared to Con­gress which has failed for decades to update impor­tant protections.”

“For exam­ple, if law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton state want­ed to fol­low EFF’s advice to ban online behav­ioral adver­tis­ing or to allow its cit­i­zens to sue com­pa­nies for not min­i­miz­ing their col­lec­tion of per­son­al data (pro­vi­sions where APRA falls short), state leg­is­la­tors would have no pow­er to do so under the new fed­er­al bill.”

That may be, but we think it’s an accept­able trade­off to get a fed­er­al data pri­va­cy law that will pro­tect mil­lions more peo­ple than laws at the state lev­el can. 

Tru­jil­lo brought up Wash­ing­ton, NPI’s home state, in the dis­cus­sion quot­ed above, but Wash­ing­ton isn’t a great exam­ple for the point he’s mak­ing because, unlike Cal­i­for­nia, we haven’t been able to pass a com­pre­hen­sive data pri­va­cy law despite hav­ing had a Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­ta for over half a decade. And not for lack of try­ing: Many NPI allies have been work­ing on the issue with State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shel­ley Klo­ba (D‑1st Dis­trict: King + Sno­homish coun­ties), but haven’t been able to get a bill to the gov­er­nor’s desk. 

In 2023, Wash­ing­ton law­mak­ers did pass a repro­duc­tive health pri­va­cy law spon­sored by State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Van­dana Slat­ter — My Health, My Data, which our team worked on with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and found was extreme­ly pop­u­lar — but that impor­tant, pio­neer­ing law would­n’t be pre­empt­ed by the Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act. 

The old proverb that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush seems applic­a­ble here. Cal­i­for­nia has done what it can to raise the bar on dig­i­tal pri­va­cy and prod Con­gress into action. It’s unlike­ly many oth­er states will fol­low suit in the near future. The Amer­i­can Pri­va­cy Rights Act has both sup­port and promise. It’s a way for­ward. We should take it. 

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Pacific Northwest voters overwhelmingly support proposed American Privacy Rights Act of 2024, NPI poll finds”

Comments are closed.