US Senators Introduce Federal Data Privacy Bill
US senators are seeking to enact the first federal data privacy law with the Data Care Act, introduced December 12. The bill would require companies who collect data from users to take reasonable steps to protect that data and prevent companies from using data in a way that could hurt consumers.
Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, is the bill’s sponsor. Schatz is the top Democrat on the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet subcommittee. The bill is co-sponsored by fourteen other Democratic senators.
If passed, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would oversee implementing the legislation. Tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have been calling for a federal data privacy law since California enacted the toughest data privacy law yet in June 2018. Regulations that vary by state make implementation and enforcement difficult.
Organizations representing tech companies offered their support of the Data Care Act. Tech companies have been lobbying Congress for regulations that would standardize and regulate routine data practices rather than rely on companies to determine how they will manage consumer data. Large tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter have agreed to continue working with Congress to create broad data privacy laws that promote responsible data practices.
The Data Care Act will allow states to pursue companies in violation of the law, with help from the FTC. Under the bill the FTC has the power to fine companies who are not complying.
Much of the onus is put on consumers to protect their own privacy. If consumers do not like how their data is being used, their only option is to not use that technology, which is increasingly difficult in today’s online world. Regulation of the tech industry is still catching up to other consumer industries with stronger protections for users.
This is the third federal data privacy law introduced in 2018, proving it to be a popular topic among lawmakers. In November Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon proposed a bill that would punish CEOs with jail time if their company lies in their annual report to the FTC. In September, Representative Suzanne DelBene of Washington also introduced a data privacy bill. Privacy in tech will continue to be a hot topic in 2019.
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