Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the business community-backed SAFE DATA Act in hopes of jumpstarting deliberations over comprehensive privacy legislation, which have stalled during the pandemic. Sen. Wicker’s bill excludes HR data, preempts state laws, and does not provide individuals with a right to sue for infractions.
For large employers, the need for comprehensive consumer privacy legislation is apparent. However, many of the protections in pending legislative proposals are designed for consumers, not workers, and would create significant issues if applied in the employment context. Fortunately, most bills submitted at the state and federal level, including the three state laws that have been passed at this point, have recognized this important distinction and have excluded HR data.
Looking ahead: Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who cosponsored the Wicker bill, had previously introduced a competing measure. The newly-introduced SAFE DATA Act clearly reestablishes a starting point for Republicans—at least those on the Senate Commerce Committee—to find consensus. It remains to be seen whether Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who has yet to introduce a Democratic bill, will call for a hearing to consider this and other privacy bills introduced this Congress.