Digital privacy should unite us, not drive us apart
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Recent revelations that Facebook allowed the data of 87 million of its American users to be highjacked and misused for partisan political purposes by online predators highlights the need for Congress to take swift action to address the need for digital privacy.

While Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens How social media fuels U.S. political polarization — what to do about it Democrats, unions pour cash into California recall fight MORE was on Capitol Hill this week apologizing for the company’s serious lapse in security and judgment that allowed Cambridge Analytica to misappropriate and misuse for political purposes the personal data of millions of Americans without their knowledge or permission, the damage had been done.


Facebook claims it isn’t waiting for regulation to improve its security protocols and make things right. But in 2015, Facebook was already under a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consent decree from 2011 to ensure they properly protected their users’ data, and it failed to do so.

So, isn’t it time for Congress to act to protect the digital privacy of the American people?

Every day, data collection affects countless Americans, touching many parts of our lives. Far beyond just incomprehensible code, data collection is very personal and may include our location, photos, messages and other personal details that tell the world who we are and how we live our lives.

The collection of consumer data should be responsible and transparent. Apps should provide consumers with notice and choice regarding how data is collected, shared, and used, while protecting the security of data.

Yet we lack basic rules governing the collection and use of data derived from our mobile devices and on social media sites that have become ubiquitous in our daily lives.

That’s why I’m poised to re-introduce two important bills that do just that -- bills that will safeguard consumers’ digital privacy and rights.

The Application Privacy, Protection and Security, or APPS Act, will bolster consumer privacy on mobile devices by requiring app developers to maintain privacy policies, obtain consent from consumers before collecting data, and securely maintain the data that they collect. 

The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, would create transparency and control for consumers over their personal data. Consumers should have access to the volumes of personal data collected about them. And more importantly, we should all be able to correct false information before losing access to potential employment, insurance, housing or credit opportunities.

The Data Act would create transparency and control for consumers over their personal data, and provide consumers with the tools to protect themselves from harm caused by false and inaccurate data collected about them. It would also give consumers the right opt-out of data collection for marketing purposes.

I introduced these critical bills first in 2013 and again in 2016, and plan to reintroduce them soon. I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take a closer look at my legislation moving forward.

The time is now to pass meaningful legislation that not only protects consumers’ personal information from being manipulated by corporate and political marketing interests, but truly gives consumers the power to control and decide how their information is stored and used.

Privacy is an issue that should unite us, not drive us apart. We are now in the era of big data, and consumers access the Internet through mobile devices now more than ever.  It’s past time for our laws to reflect this reality through common-sense rules for data collection, transparency and use.

Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonHillicon Valley: Senators want answers about Amazon's biometric data collection | House members release companion bill targeting app stores | Google files to dismiss Ohio lawsuit House members release companion bill targeting app stores Rep. Al Green, Texas state lawmaker arrested outside Capitol during voting rights protest MORE represents Georgia’s 4th District and sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure and Judiciary committees. He is ranking member of the Judiciary subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.