Lawmakers propose new consumer privacy bill

Lawmakers propose new consumer privacy bill

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A group of U.S. lawmakers today proposed a privacy bill that would limit companies’ ability to collect and process user data.

The Washington Post reported that the bill was introduced by Senator Roger Wicker and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. According to the Post, the development marks the first time that proposed privacy legislation supported by panel leaders has drawn bicameral support.

The bill would require companies to minimize the amount of user data that they collect. If the legislation is passed, companies will also have to limit  how they process user data and share it with third parties. A “covered entity shall not collect, process, or transfer covered data beyond what is reasonably necessary, proportionate, and limited to provide or maintain a specific product or service requested by an individual,” the bill specifies.

The proposed legislation includes other privacy requirements as well. Companies would be mostly prohibited from charging users for features that improve privacy. Additionally, executives at companies to which the legislation applies would be required to annually certify that the privacy requirements specified in the legislation are being met.

To help enforce the law, the bill proposes that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission create a new bureau focused on consumer privacy. It would be “comparable in structure, size, organization, and authority to the existing Bureaus within the Commission related to consumer protection and competition,” the bill states. 

Federal regulators and state attorneys general would gain the ability to sue companies that fail to comply with the law. Four years after the legislation is enacted, consumers would also gain the ability to launch privacy lawsuits. Additionally, the bill seeks to create a mechanism for enabling consumers to opt out of targeted advertising and certain other business practices that rely on user data.

Another section of the proposed legislation focuses on data brokers. Data brokers are companies from which brands purchase user data to support their targeted advertising campaigns. The bill proposes to create a tool that would enable consumers to have such companies “delete all covered data related to such individual that the third-party collecting entity did not collect from the individual directly or when acting as a service provider.”

If passed, the proposed legislation could create a more complicated regulatory landscape for tech giants that rely on targeted advertising to generate revenue. The bill’s introduction comes in a time when the technology industry’s largest players are also facing increased scrutiny in other areas. Congress is currently considering two antitrust bills that would introduce new rules for in-app payments, third-party app marketplaces and preinstalled software.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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