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Ex-FCC counselor calls for federal consumer privacy law

Consumer advocate Gigi Sohn is calling on the federal government to pass a comprehensive consumer privacy law, warning that lack of such a protection can lead to economic or even physical harm.

“Every state has privacy laws but there isn’t a comprehensive consumer privacy law that particularly deals with online privacy,” Sohn, who worked as a counselor to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman under President Obama, told Hill.TV on Thursday.

“This is not a small thing, when your privacy is violated it can lead to economic harm, it can lead to social harm, it can even lead to physical harm,” added Sohn, a Benton senior fellow .

Sohn said due to the lack of consumer privacy laws on a federal level, states like California have had to step up and pass their own laws.

“I hope that there’s a federal law passed — but right now, California becomes the national standard,” she told Hill.TV in reference to the state’s consumer privacy law. 

The California Consumer Privacy Act, which was initially enacted last year, was considered the first of its kind in the nation.

The legislation aims to give consumers the ability to see what information is being collected about them and prevent companies from selling their data.

The law also requires that companies in the state disclose where they are collecting data, and respond to consumers requests for information in a timely manner. Other proposals include banning companies from selling data of consumers under the age of 16.

A number of amendments have since been added to the bill. Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Ford, GM scientists knew in 1960s that emissions caused climate change: report | Testing for oil in Arctic wildlife refuge proposed for this winter | Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races Electric vehicles see state-level gains 10 under-the-radar races to watch in November MORE is expected to sign the the final version by Oct. 13.

But in her interview with Hill.TV, Sohn argued that even though California’s consumer privacy law doesn’t go far enough.

"The California law, while perhaps the most comprehensive and best in the nation, is still actually not that strong,” she told Hill.TV. “For example, consumers can only opt out of the sale of their data — they can’t opt out or better yet opt in to the collection of their data.”

—Tess Bonn