November 28, 2018 / 8:53 PM / a year ago

U.S. Congress shouldn't preempt California privacy law: state official

FILE PHOTO: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks about President Trump's proposal to weaken national greenhouse gas emission and fuel efficiency regulations, at a media conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S. August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned on Wednesday that the U.S. Congress should not pass a relatively weak online privacy bill to protect consumer data and use it to take precedence over a new California law.

Big tech companies are pushing for a federal bill to preempt California’s law, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in June but whose provisions are not due to go into effect until 2020.

“Do no harm simply means don’t stop good work, good practices that have already occurred in the states by preempting the states from doing the things that have worked,” Becerra told Reuters in an interview.

California’s law gives consumers more control over how companies collect and manage their personal information, including allowing them to request that data be deleted and to opt out of having their data sold to third parties.

U.S. lawmakers are drafting a privacy bill, expected to be finished early in the next session of Congress, that might, for example, allow the government to fine companies for misusing consumer data or allowing it to be stolen.

Becerra on Wednesday also noted the importance of supporting an industry that has led to the creation of wildly successful companies like Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google, both of which are based in California.

He noted that California, in 2003, was the first state to have a law requiring that consumers be notified in the case of data breach.

Becerra said that state attorneys general met earlier this month to discuss the role of antitrust in a data-driven, high-tech economy, and said they were “trying to figure it out.” He did not identify any of the states in the meeting.

“We want to make sure that we don’t stifle an industry that has created some tremendous opportunities in employment,” he said. “At the same time, we’re not interested in seeing breaches in personal information that are causing a lot of consumers real harm.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler

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