Congressman Wants U.S. to Part With Europe on Data Privacy


As the number of devices quietly gathering your data increases, so does the risk of exposure.

One tech-focused lawmaker thinks upcoming European data laws, which would force tech companies to occasionally delete customers’ information, are “ridiculous,” and hopes that the United States can find a system that maintains the data while protecting customers’ privacy.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., co-founded the Congressional Internet of Things Caucus, which discusses the policy needs created by an increasingly connected network of devices and sensors.

“The reality is that Europeans believe that data should be kept for a short period of time and thrown away,"  Issa said at a Tuesday event hosted by the Information Technology Industry Council, a private sector advocacy group. "That is ridiculous when you consider the importance of a long continuum of information for our own benefit.”

General Data Protection Regulation laws, which would go into effect in 2018 in Europe, would broadly give consumers the right to opt-in to hand their information over to certain online services, instead of opting out of a default setting.

Still, Issa said, “we believe that certain [data] should not be out there at all, and yet they are, and they will be.” He added that in congressional discussions about the internet of things, he plans to ask, “How do we lock and unlock information?”

He noted that recent reports that an online prankster made an email address appearing to belong to Jared Kushner and tricked Kushner’s real contacts into responding with sensitive information, illustrate the challenge in protecting one’s personal data.

“We do not expect to be able to easily stop that in the short run,” Issa said. “Identity verification [should be] so organic so people are not fooled.”

Better protecting consumers’ privacy will require intense collaboration with the private sector.

“They’re not government solutions, they’re encryption solutions, they’re identity string solutions," Issa said. "They’re things which cyber today probably knows a little bit about, and won’t share, but everyone needs.”

It’s easy to talk about the potential benefits of the internet of things, and ask, “Have you seen what Alexa can do?,” he added. The more complex discussion is “How do we...allow us to protect our own information, our own privacy? Nobody should be able to unlock my door, just because I have a Wi-Fi interface.”