Problems with voting? Call the Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

Current draft bill strips out civil rights protections and weakens privacy.

WASHINGTON—- The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released the following statement in response to the most recent draft of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA). The Lawyers’ Committee has been a leading champion for comprehensive privacy legislation over the past five years

“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law opposes the new draft of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) and encourages Members of Congress to vote against advancing it unless its civil rights provisions are restored and privacy loopholes closed. 

The latest version of APRA does not sufficiently protect our rights. By removing previously agreed upon bipartisan language that would address data-driven discrimination and require AI impact assessments, the new draft of APRA fails to address the core purpose of privacy: to ensure that who we are cannot be used against us unfairly. This is unacceptable.

A privacy bill is not a comprehensive privacy bill without civil rights. Over and over again, we have seen how many of the worst harms from tech companies’ exploitative data practices disproportionately affect Black people and other people of color. A privacy law that does not account for discrimination is a house with no foundation. 

Passing comprehensive privacy legislation would be a major public good–but APRA no longer can be called comprehensive. Civil rights guardrails are essential for consumer trust in a system that allows companies to collect and use personal data without consent. The new draft strips out anti-discrimination protections, AI impact assessment requirements, and the ability to opt-out of AI decision-making for major economic opportunities like housing and credit. We cannot abide a regime that would perpetuate, in the words of Dr. Ruha Benjamin, a form of ‘Jim Code’: ‘the employment of new technologies that reflect and reproduce existing inequities.’

The new draft runs contrary to the pre-existing bipartisan APRA discussion draft and the American Data Privacy Protection Act (ADPPA)–which passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee 53-2 in 2022. It also runs contrary to every other significant consumer privacy bill over the past several years, including the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) and Rep. Rodgers’ Control Our Data Act (CODA), both of which included anti-discrimination provisions.

The new draft of APRA also creates a massive loophole for personal data collected and used on an individual’s device. Tech companies would be able to do almost anything they want with data that stays on a personal device–no data minimization rules, no protections for kids, no advertising limits, no transparency requirements, no civil rights safeguards, and no right to sue for injured consumers. As AI and computing become more powerful, allowing more processing to occur on a device, this loophole will grow. As a result, this draft of APRA is weaker than state laws it is preempting.

When we protect privacy and civil rights, we come closer to building an equitable internet, one that can empower communities of color. An equitable internet promises the freedom to define oneself, organize, advocate, learn, play, pray, and build. But achieving the full measure of freedom online requires freedom from data-driven segregation, algorithmic discrimination, and pervasive surveillance. This is why many consider privacy to be, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ described it, ‘the most comprehensive of rights.’

We hope that Congress changes course and we can once again support a comprehensive privacy bill that prioritizes civil rights. Until then, this bill should not advance.”