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FILE - A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin, May 21, 2013. VOA

U.S. lawmakers drafting a bill to create rules governing online privacy hope to have a discussion draft complete by late May with a Senate committee vote during the summer and are intensifying efforts, but disputes are likely to push that timetable back, according to sources knowledgeable about the matter.

The issue is of huge concern to advertisers and tech companies such as Facebook and Alphabet’s Google, which provide free online services to consumers but derive revenues from advertising targeted at consumers based on preferences identified via data collection.

Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal, Brian Schatz and Maria Cantwell, who are leading the effort to draft the measure along with Republican Senators Jerry Moran, Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker and the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Thune, met late Tuesday and could meet again as early as next week.

The six senators involved in the privacy working group met for 45 minutes in Thune’s Capitol Hill office Tuesday evening to discuss the status of the effort and look at issues where senators do not agree and will need to negotiate to resolve.

FILE – The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

“It’s all baby steps,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a path forward.” Thune told reporters after the meeting senators want to review some legislative language that staffers have drafted. “We’re in the early stages,” Thune said. For a big legislative undertaking he said he thought the group was in a “pretty good place” but acknowledged it is “not an easy lift” to win agreement.

Cantwell told reporters on the way into the meeting that she wants to see a bill that provides “meaningful protection for the privacy of individual consumers.”

“This is the start of a conversation, but you have to have a strong law,” she added. “We’re making good progress and I’m very hopeful,” Blumenthal said afterward. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a hearing on the matter on Wednesday.

Republicans hope to complete a draft of the bill by the end of May so it can be introduced, debated and voted out of committee before Congress leaves for its August recess, according to the sources knowledgeable about the matter.

But that may be delayed if they fail to reach agreement with Democrats who are determined to ensure that the bill does not weaken, and then pre-empt, a California online privacy bill that goes into effect next year.

One dispute that has arisen is whether consumers whose privacy is violated by a company should be allowed to sue that company, with Democrats pushing for this to be allowed, according to one of the sources familiar with the discussions.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation advocacy group has this as one of its highest priorities in data privacy legislation. At least one key Republican disagrees.

FILE – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., speaks to reporters following a town hall meeting, July 6, 2017, in Palco, Kansas. VOA

“Senator Moran has heard serious concerns from the business community, particularly the small business community, that any private right of action would have serious ramifications in their sustainability. The senator is taking these considerations into account as he negotiates federal privacy legislation,” said a representative for the senator in an email statement.

Democratic support for the privacy legislation is key since the measure will also have to pass the U.S. House of Representatives, which Democrats control, to become law. Republicans have a majority in the Senate.

ALSO READ: US Cyber Spies Unmasks Identities of Citizens who in Contact with Foreign Intelligence Targets

California’s law, which will affect any major company with an online presence, requires companies with data on more than 50,000 people to allow consumers to view the data they have collected on them, request deletion of data, and opt out of having the data sold to third parties. Each violation carries a $7,500 fine.

A privacy bill is one of the few pieces of potential legislation that lobbyists believe has a decent chance of becoming law because it is a bipartisan concern and does not cost taxpayers money, according to a source following the matter. (VOA)



Rihanna was summoned from her seat to accept the honour, with the Prime Minister.

Singer Rihanna was honoured by Prime Minister Mia Mottley at an event which marked Barbados's new status as a republic, which was attended by Prince Charles. Addressing the pop star by her real name, the PM said: "Robyn Rihanna Fenty tomorrow morning shall have conferred upon her the order of national hero of Barbados."

Rihanna was then summoned from her seat to accept the honor, with the Prime Minister managing to rouse a laugh from the singer when she referenced her 2012 hit 'Diamonds', reports She added: "On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee, for the national hero of Barbados." "And to accept on behalf of a grateful nation - you can come my dear - ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, may you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation." Rihanna, who was born in the St Michael parish of Barbados, found fame in 2005 after being spotted by a record producer and has since gone on to become one of the most successful female artists of all time with sales of over 250 million and recently reached billionaire status through her Fenty beauty brand.

The Prime Minister continued in her speech: "Commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, her creativity, her discipline, and above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth. "Having satisfied that, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty has given service to Barbados which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attaining of the highest excellence to the Government of Barbados." It comes after a historic move for Barbados, which has become a republic after almost 400 years and welcomes its first president, Sandra Mason, after removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state. (IANS/ MBI)

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