Florida Consumer Privacy Bills ‘Indefinitely Postponed’

Florida senators and representatives ended their 2022 legislative session on March 11 by withdrawing consideration of consumer data privacy legislation. Any discussion of stronger protections for consumers, and more requirements on businesses, has been dubbed “indefinitely postponed.” This is the second session to conclude without giving the governor something to sign.

Senate Bill 1864 and House Bill 9 were the latest efforts to enact Florida privacy legislation. They were carried over and altered along the way from the 2021 session, when the House bill passed but the Senate measure did not. Some say a report estimating the financial impact to companies contributed to the demise of the Senate bill, at least in this round. Changes made to the most recent iterations included a watered-down version of a consumer private right of action in the House bill, making it more favorable to businesses. The Senate did not propose such a right, instead saying state enforcers, not citizens, would challenge unfair and deceptive practices in the courts.

Businesses opposed the bills saying they exposed them to too much litigation without giving them time to correct alleged violations. Industries including telecommunications, finance, insurance, utilities, and real estate also objected to the attendant financial burdens of the proposed laws. The costs sounded the loudest alarms. Opponents cited one report that compliance would cost Florida companies many billions of dollars a year to implement and maintain.

The organization Florida TaxWatch, which produced that report, focused primarily on the House bill. The group’s CEO, Dominic Calabro, was quoted as saying that in addition to the costs and “financially motivated” litigation, smaller businesses would feel pressure to adopt expensive data privacy measures in order to remain competitive. He said businesses that would have been covered by the law would not have had enough time to implement the necessary technology. Meanwhile, companies would be at risk of non-compliance and “costly litigation for failing to respond,” Calabro said.

In cheering the bills’ stoppage, Florida TaxWatch acknowledged the bipartisan support and popularity among citizens for the concept. Consumers like having more control over how their online data is used, the group said, including the ability to have businesses delete their personal data and not sell it.  But, the group said, their fiscal study had the desired impact. “[Our] research showed it would have reduced Florida’s gross operating surplus — the total profit of private enterprise sans immediate costs and workers — by 3.9%. That amounts to a $21 billion hit to the state economy.”

Florida-based journalist Jacob Ogles, reporting for FloridaPolitics.com, underscored the role of the cost study in stopping the bills. He explained that the measures were originally announced by a traditionally pro-business Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. The governor announced the legislation in 2020 “amid [his] public skirmishes with Big Tech,” Ogles reported. The legislation also became a priority of the speaker of the House, Ogles added, saying the speaker viewed it as “a major bargaining chip in budget negotiations.” The initiative still enjoys tenacious backing. Ogles quoted one Republican member of the House as saying she would “never, never” give up.

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