The "21st Century Privacy Coalition" might sound like the name of a group fighting for stronger privacy protections in the Internet age. But, in fact, it represents some of the nation's largest cable and phone companies, and is working to help those companies escape regulations on how they have to handle customer data.
If the group gets its way, Congress would loosen regulations for how companies have to protect sensitive information—such as what phone numbers you've sent text messages to, what you've watched on television, and potentially even what websites you've visited.
The group is led by Mary Bono, a former Republican congresswoman from California, and Jon Leibowitz, a former Democratic chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Funded by Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, and industry trade associations, the coalition has spent nearly $2 million on lobbying, according to disclosure records. That money has gone to hire lobbyists from two firms: Mayer Brown and Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli, and Berzok.
It has essentially one goal: pass the Data Security and Breach Notification Act. The bill, which cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month, is intended to combat the kinds of massive hacks of personal information that have hit Target, Home Depot, and other companies in recent years. President Obama even urged Congress to act on the issue during this year's State of the Union address.