US lawmakers reach agreement on data privacy legislation

The legislation would restrict the collection of consumer data by technology companies and empower users to prevent the sale of personal information or demand its deletion.

Published - April 08, 2024 02:14 pm IST

US lawmakers reach agreement on data privacy legislation.

US lawmakers reach agreement on data privacy legislation. | Photo Credit: Dado Ruvic

Two key US lawmakers have reached an agreement on draft bipartisan data privacy legislation, as per a report published by Reuters on Sunday. The legislation would restrict the collection of consumer data by technology companies and empower Americans to prevent the sale of personal information or demand its deletion.

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, and Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, struck the deal. It would grant individuals control over the use of their personal information and mandate disclosure if data is transferred to foreign adversaries.

Congress has been debating online privacy protections since at least 2019, primarily due to concerns about the use of data by social media companies like Meta Platforms’ Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, and ByteDance-owned TikTok, but has yet to reach a consensus.

Aides stated they hoped to advance legislation soon. Meta, TikTok, and Google were not immediately available for comment.

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In a joint statement, the lawmakers said the plan would provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general with broad authority to oversee consumer privacy issues and establish “robust enforcement mechanisms to hold violators accountable,” including a private right of action for individuals.

While the bill does not prohibit targeted advertising, it does allow consumers to opt-out. The FTC would establish a new bureau focused on privacy and could impose fines for privacy violations, which would also apply to telecommunications companies.

Senators Cantwell and Rodgers believe that this bipartisan, bicameral draft legislation presents the best opportunity in decades to establish a national data privacy and security standard. They assert that it gives people the right to control their personal information. The measure would allow people to opt out of data processing if a company changes its privacy policy.

Consumers could sue “bad actors who violate their privacy rights - and recover money for damages when they’ve been harmed” and would stop “companies from using people’s personal information to discriminate against them,” the statement said.

The bill would also mandate “annual reviews of algorithms to ensure they do not put individuals, including our youth, at risk of harm, including discrimination.”

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