US lawmakers reach consensus on data privacy bill

On Sunday, two prominent U.S. lawmakers announced a breakthrough in long-standing negotiations, introducing a bipartisan draft on data privacy legislation. This proposed bill aims to curtail the amount of consumer data that tech companies can gather and empowers Americans with the right to halt the sale of their personal information or demand its deletion.

Publication: 08.04.2024 - 12:05
US lawmakers reach consensus on data privacy bill
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The collaboration between Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, Commerce Committee Chair, and Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair, proposes to grant individuals autonomy over their personal data and mandates the disclosure of data transfers to foreign adversaries.

Despite ongoing debates since 2019 over online privacy protections, exacerbated by concerns regarding data usage by social media giants like Facebook, Google, and TikTok, Congress has struggled to reach a consensus. Aides expressed optimism on Sunday about moving forward with the legislation soon.

The proposal outlines that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general would oversee consumer privacy issues, introducing stringent enforcement mechanisms to hold violators accountable. This includes granting individuals the right to take legal action.

Although the bill doesn't outright ban targeted advertising, it offers consumers an opt-out choice. The FTC is tasked with establishing a new bureau dedicated to privacy, with the authority to impose fines for violations, extending its reach to include telecom companies.

Historically, the FTC has actively pursued privacy violations, exemplified by a $5 billion fine against Facebook in 2019 for breaching a prior consent decree. The agreement under discussion aims to strengthen these regulations, notably prohibiting the monetization of minors' data and introducing stricter controls on facial recognition technology.

Further, in 2021, ByteDance settled a $92 million class-action lawsuit related to TikTok's data privacy concerns. Recent reports suggest the FTC is nearing the conclusion of its TikTok investigation regarding privacy and data security lapses.

Google and YouTube's 2019 settlement of $170 million with the FTC and New York, resolving accusations of illegally collecting children's personal information, underscores the urgency for comprehensive privacy legislation.

Cantwell and Rodgers describe this draft legislation as a pivotal chance to establish a national data privacy and security standard, emphasizing the right of individuals to control their personal data. The bill requires explicit consent for the transfer of sensitive data and allows individuals to seek legal recourse against privacy violations. Moreover, it aims to prevent discrimination based on personal information and calls for annual algorithm reviews to protect against potential harm, including discriminatory practices.

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