What’s in the American Data Privacy and Protection Act?

Congress is considering omnibus privacy legislation, and it reportedly has bipartisan support. If passed, this would be a massive shake-up for American consumer privacy, which has been left to the states up to this point. So, how does the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) stack up against existing privacy legislation such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act?

The ADPPA includes a much broader definition of sensitive data than we’ve seen in state-level laws. Some notable inclusions are income level, voicemails and text messages, calendar information, data relating to a known child under the age of 17, and depictions of an individual’s “undergarment-clad” private area. These enumerated categories go much further than recent state laws, which tend to focus on health and demographic information. One asterisk though – unlike other state laws, the ADPPA only considers sexual orientation information to be sensitive when it is “inconsistent with the individual’s reasonable expectation” of disclosure. It’s unclear at this point, for example, if a member of the LGBTQ+ community who is out to friends would have a “reasonable expectation” not to be outed to their employer.

Like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the ADPPA includes a duty of data minimization on covered entities (the ADPPA borrows the term “covered entity” from HIPAA). There is a laundry list of exceptions to this rule, including one for using data collected prior to passage “to conduct internal research.” Companies used to kitchen-sink analytics practices may appreciate this savings clause as they adjust to making do with less access to consumer data.

Another innovation is a tiered applicability, in which all commercial entities are “covered entities,” but “large data holders” – those making over $250,000,000 gross revenue and that process either 5,000,000 individuals’ data or 200,000 individuals’ sensitive data – are subject to additional requirements and limitations, while “small businesses” enjoy additional exemptions. Until now, state consumer privacy laws have made applicability an all-or-nothing proposition. All covered entities, though, would be required to comply with browser opt-out signals, following a trend started by the California Privacy Protection Agency’s recent draft regulations. Additionally, individuals have a private right of action against covered entities to seek monetary and injunctive relief.

Finally, and controversially, the ADPPA explicitly preempts all state privacy laws. It makes sense – the globalized nature of the internet means that any less-stringent state law would become the exception that kills the rule. Still, companies that only recently finalized CCPA- and CPRA-compliance programs won’t appreciate being sent back to the drawing board.

Read the bill for yourself here.