Sen. Markey Intros Federal Data Privacy Legislation

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Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Privacy Bill of Rights Act, a piece of “comprehensive” Federal privacy legislation on April 12.

Markey, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said the legislation is intended to “protect American consumers’ personal information” from companies who are “sharing consumers’ personal information without their consent.”

The legislation, in addition to establishing rules for companies online and offline, includes strengthened cybersecurity standards for companies and provides the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with rulemaking authority. The FTC is also required to develop a centralized website that informs consumers of their privacy rights and requires companies to use “easy to read short-form notices provided directly to consumers.” In addition to strengthening Federal protections, the legislation also enables state Attorneys General to “protect the interest of their residents and bring an action against companies that violate the privacy rights of individuals.” Individuals will also have a private right of action to defend their privacy rights. The legislation also bans the use of “individuals’ personal information for harmful, discriminatory purposes, such as housing and employment advertisements targeted based on demographics like race and gender.”

In a statement, Markey said, “America’s laws have failed to keep pace with the unprecedented use of consumers’ data and the consistent cadence of breaches and privacy invasions that plague our economy and society. I have long advocated for privacy protections that include the principles of knowledge, notice, and the right to say ‘no’ to companies that want our information. But it is increasingly clear that a true 21st-century comprehensive privacy bill must do more than simply enshrine notice and consent standards. That’s why my Privacy Bill of Rights Act puts discriminatory data uses out of bounds and tells companies that they can only collect the information that is necessary to provide the product or service requested by the consumer.”

The bill also received praise from privacy rights activists.

“Senator Markey’s Privacy Bill of Rights Act sets a strong, rights-based standard for consumer privacy protection under Federal law that goes beyond mere notice and choice,” said Dylan Gilbert, policy fellow at Public Knowledge. “In particular, Public Knowledge applauds the Act’s data minimization requirements, data use restrictions – including prohibitions on uses that lead to unfair discrimination – and private right of action so that consumers can have their day in court both individually and as a class for violations of their privacy rights.”

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