Main Street Privacy Coalition Outlines Principles
 for Federal Privacy Legislation

November 21, 2019 - The recently formed Main Street Privacy Coalition today called on the Senate to develop a “uniform and fair framework” as lawmakers draft federal privacy legislation. The coalition outlined principles for privacy legislation in a letter sent to members of the Senate, Senate leadership and the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; Judiciary Committee; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Safeguarding consumers’ privacy is one of retailers’ top priorities, and National Retail Federation Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French called on Congress to pass legislation that leaves “no loopholes.”

“As Congress begins to finally move forward on long-awaited privacy legislation, retailers and other Main Street Businesses want to make sure their customers’ information is properly protected,” French said. “Congress needs to make sure there are no loopholes and that all entities that handle sensitive data are covered. At the same time, legislation must recognize that consumers are willing to share at least some of their information when they receive benefits in return. Those benefits should not be outlawed by well-meaning efforts that interfere with businesses’ legitimate use of consumer information to better serve their customers.”

Text of Letter:

November 21, 2019
RE: The Main Street Privacy Coalition – Principles for Federal Privacy Legislation

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

The undersigned associations represent over a million Main Street businesses that Americans know and interact with every day in industries that directly serve consumers and help support local communities across the country. Together, as The Main Street Privacy Coalition, we wish to express our appreciation for your leadership on consumer data privacy issues and to share with you the principles we support in bipartisan federal privacy legislation.

The Main Street Privacy Coalition (MSPC) is comprised of a broad array of national trade associations representing businesses that line America’s Main Streets. From retailers to REALTORS®, hotels to home builders, grocery stores to restaurants, and gas stations to convenience stores, our member companies interact with consumers day in and day out. Collectively, the industries that MSPC trade groups represent directly employ nearly 34 million Americans and constitute over one-fifth of the U.S. economy by contributing $4.5 trillion (or 21.8%) to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Our success depends on maintaining trusted relationships with our customers and clients: trust that the goods and services we provide are high quality and offered at competitive prices; and trust that the information customers provide to us is kept secure and used responsibly. For these reasons, our associations have been actively engaged in the discussions surrounding data privacy and have come together to support enactment of a comprehensive and uniform federal data privacy law.

American businesses have no higher priority than earning and maintaining trusted relationships with their customers. To preserve those relationships, businesses must protect and responsibly use the personal information that customers share with them. As members of Congress consider legislative and regulatory solutions to address data privacy concerns, our coalition urges adoption of the following principles:

Comprehensive and Uniform Federal Standard. There should be a comprehensive federal law on data privacy that protects consumers in a nationwide, uniform and consistent way.

Transparency for Consumers. Consumers should be informed of the categories of personal data that businesses collect and how that data is used by them.

Preserve Customer Services and Benefits. A federal data privacy law should preserve the ability of consumers and businesses to voluntarily establish mutually beneficial business-customer relationships, including rewards and loyalty programs.

Responsibility for Own Conduct. Any privacy law should make all businesses responsible for their own conduct. It should not expose them to liability for privacy violations by their business partners, including contractors, franchises and other businesses.

Statutory Obligations for All. Small businesses should not be forced to hold other businesses to privacy standards through contracts. All businesses that handle consumer information should have direct privacy obligations under the law.
No Exemptions. Every industry sector that handles consumer information should have equivalent legal obligations to protect consumer privacy under the law.

An essential element of our members’ valued customer relationships is respect for the personal information that customers share with their businesses. Virtually every industry sector – whether consumer-facing or business-to-business – handles significant volumes of consumer information. To comprehensively protect Americans’ interests in data protection, any federal data privacy legislation should apply to all industry sectors that handle consumer data, and should not contain any loopholes that leave consumers unprotected when their personal data is handled by a business with which they do not have, or expect to have, a direct relationship. Every business handling consumer data in an information chain of custody should therefore have equivalent statutory obligations to protect that data and honor consumer rights requests with respect to it. Privacy law should not rely solely on private contracts, and enforcement of them by private parties, to create these legal obligations and ensure they are met by all businesses.

American consumers expect all businesses handling their personal information to do so responsibly, regardless of when and where that data is collected or used. By developing a data privacy law that does not pick regulatory winners and losers, Congress can ensure that Americans’ privacy will be protected by federal law regardless of which business is collecting, transmitting, storing or otherwise processing their personal information.

We believe Congress must act to ensure that consumers’ privacy interests are protected. We are concerned with leading state privacy laws that are being crafted and enacted on the inaccurate presumption that consumers’ interests in data privacy stops at the front door of a consumer-facing business. These laws fail to appreciate that consumers are equally or more concerned with what third parties unknown to them may do with their personal information. Furthermore, even well-meaning state laws may make it impossible for Main Street businesses to use data to serve their customers in the many ways consumers have come to expect. In the end, it may be American consumers who stand to lose the most if businesses cease to take advantage of technological innovations to better serve them out of fear of inadvertently violating a hodge-podge of potentially conflicting state privacy regulations. We therefore urge the committees you lead to carefully examine the flaws in state privacy laws and improve upon them by enacting legislation that will hold accountable all entities handling consumers’ personal information.

We look forward to working with you and the members of your committees on federal data privacy legislation that will provide a uniform and fair framework for consumers and businesses alike that respects and promotes consumer privacy across all industry sectors.


American Beverage Licensees
American Hotel & Lodging Association
American Pizza Community
International Franchise Association
National Association of Convenience Stores
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Realtors
National Association of Truck Stop Operators
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Grocers Association
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
Petroleum Marketers Association of America
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Self Storage Association
Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America

cc: The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
The Honorable John Thune
The Honorable Dick Durbin
Members of the U.S. Senate

About NRF
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.