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Washington Examiner
Joe Williams

A bipartisan group of senators urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday to include Congress in the agency's efforts to craft a consumer-privacy blueprint.

The White House began discussions on such a framework earlier this year with key industry groups eager to advance a federal standard. The European Union implemented a sweeping privacy law in May that requires companies to, among other things, get customers' permission before tapping their personal information for ad campaigns, and California passed its own legislation in June.

Businesses fear that, in absence of a federal framework, the U.S. will fall behind other countries and states will advance their own bills, creating a patchwork of different laws that could be costly and difficult to comply with.

The administration has been considering a possible executive order or a voluntary framework, the same avenue taken by former President Barack Obama. While privacy legislation has been notoriously difficult to advance in Congress, lawmakers are seeking to get in on the action.

“Congress should be central to privacy blueprints,” Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, wrote to Ross. "Any proposal that satisfies both the needs of American consumers and the Internet economy would require Congressional action to make it an enforceable nationwide standard."

The issue of consumer privacy has been a dominant one for Congress since Facebook disclosed that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data from millions of the social media platform's users. Since then, both the House and the Senate have brought in top technology executives from Facebook and Twitter to press them on how they're improving data protection.

Simultaneously, lawmakers are pushing the companies to better safeguard their platforms from foreign agents seeking to influence U.S. elections as 2018 midterms draw closer.

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is building a "war room" to combat such attempts

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