Senate Democrats Unveil Data Privacy Legislation

Privacy issues

Democratic members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee led by Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., unveiled Federal data privacy legislation that aims to establish data privacy rights, outlaw harmful and deceptive practices by information service providers, and improve data security safeguards for online consumers.

The legislation, which also has the backing of Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., marks the latest effort in a long deliberative battle in Congress to establish Federal laws for online privacy.  Lawmakers have debated the issue for the past several years, and introduced bills, but none have made it far.

“In the growing online world, consumers deserve two things: privacy rights and a strong law to enforce them,” Sen. Cantwell said in a press release. “They should be like your Miranda rights – clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation.”

The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act also would subject data companies to monetary fines for security breaches, work to empower consumers to take charge of their privacy, and “tackle teen privacy with new safeguards.” The bill also would codify the rights of individuals to pursue claims against entities that violate their data privacy rights.

“The demand for consumers’ personal information today is at an all-time high,” Sen. Markey said. “This bill gives consumers strong privacy protections, including prohibitions on harmful discriminatory uses of our data and strict data security requirements.”

The senators sponsoring the bill cited a 2019 study that found almost 60 percent of holiday spending will be done online this year, and that “families want strong action taken to protect their online privacy and data security.”

“Every day, personal data is passed from company-to-company, amassed into digital profiles, and then used without consumer knowledge, understanding, or consent. Without meaningful rights and protections, consumers will continue to be powerless and vulnerable to abuse. As our devices become smarter, and our digital profiles become more precise and powerful, these risks will grow,” states a summary of the legislation.

On the consumer rights front, the bill aims to create and make enforceable privacy rights including:

  • The right to be free from deceptive and harmful data practices; financial, physical, and reputational injury; and acts that a reasonable person would find intrusive;
  • The right to access their data and greater transparency, which means consumers have detailed and clear information on how their data is used and shared;
  • The right to control the movement of their data which gives consumers the ability to prevent data from being distributed to unknown third parties;
  • The right to delete or correct their data; and
  • The right to take their data to a competing product or service.

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