Who will drive the future of tech innovation? U.S. and EU lawmakers must decide now – The Hill

Last month, the European Commission announced that it would follow the United States’ lead and ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices. In setting this policy, the Commission cited concerns about cybersecurity and safeguarding government data. I found this announcement timely given that, at the same time, I was wrapping up meetings with privacy and data security leaders in London, Brussels, and Dublin.
I traveled to Europe expecting to catch an earful about the damage the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has done to commerce between the U.S. and in Europe, and I was not disappointed. The EU’s latest exercise in regulatory overreach has tied the hands of business leaders and thrust the body’s Data Protection Authorities into a wide-ranging privacy enforcer role. These regulators have been forced to mediate customer service disputes with telecommunications companies, help dispose of joint bank accounts during divorce proceedings, and settle fights between neighbors about property lines.
However well-intentioned, the implementation of the GDPR shows how broad-brush regulations can backfire. By letting the EU get out ahead of us, the U.S. is now playing catch up in a world with a skewed perspective on what these laws should look like. And while some progress has been made on the new EU-U.S. Draft Privacy Framework, its future is far from certain. Until the U.S. enacts national consumer privacy and data security laws we will remain stuck in a battle with data protectionists who want to export Europe’s laws into the United States.
Still, we do find common ground on one crucial issue. Although the U.S. is spinning its wheels on data privacy, we’re gaining allies in the fight against Beijing’s global domination of the tech market. I was heartened to see how European policymakers are coming to realize what we in the U.S. have known for a long time: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not our friend.
For the first time, many EU officials have opened their eyes to the national security and human rights concerns that have fueled pushback against the expansion of CCP-controlled companies like Hikvision and DJI. And although countries like Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands continue to purchase and install compromised equipment from Huawei and ZTE, the Commission’s anti-TikTok rule is evidence that Europe is taking the risks posed by Chinese surveillance technology seriously.
Although our approach to problems in the tech space may differ, Americans and Europeans do understand that we must solve them together. But how? The answer is threefold.
First, American and European lawmakers most impose clear policies to keep Chinese influence at bay. From the Secure Equipment Act, which I co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate, to the bans on TikTok we are seeing around the world, we have a growing list of effective policies that frustrate Chinese influence. It’s time to add to it.
Second, we need to champion a favorable business climate in Western nations that attracts investment and talent from around the world. The U.S. must act swiftly on privacy and data security without putting innovation on the chopping block; EU policymakers, on the other hand, need to fix the problems with the GDPR and show they have learned from their mistakes.
Last, we must set a baseline for what consumer data is and establish clear parameters governing how that data may be collected, used, and retained across all major industries. Here in the United States, this means rejecting the European model and tasking a single regulator, the FTC, with enforcing the standards that Congress lays out.
The momentum is there, but it will fizzle quickly if we don’t act soon. Tennesseans — and all Americans — will benefit if the U.S. and Europe both work to ensure that democratic values, not those espoused by the CCP or heavy-handed regulators, drive the future of tech innovation.
Marsha Blackburn is the senior senator from Tennessee and is a member of the Commerce Committee.
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