Senate Dem proposes bill outlawing online racial discrimination

Senate Dem proposes bill outlawing online racial discrimination
© Greg Nash

Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHouse and Senate Dems implore McConnell to sign DACA legislation to protect 'Dreamers' Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid Former state senator gets DSCC endorsement in North Carolina Senate race MORE (D-Nev.) introduced a data privacy bill on Thursday that would prohibit companies from using data collected on users to discriminate based on race, religion, political affiliation or gender.

Cortez Masto’s Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance (DATA) Privacy Act would expand the authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set rules defining discriminatory data collection and ad targeting, as well as exact fines from companies found to be engaging in discriminatory practices.

It also would require companies to collect only “reasonable” amounts of data from its users and to give users a way to opt out of collection.

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“My legislation takes a proactive approach to protecting consumer data by ensuring Americans have a voice in how their consumer data is used,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “This bill requires companies put data protection and transparency first, while also requiring Congress and our government agencies step up to make the private data of consumers in Nevada, and across the country, a priority for protection.”

The bill was first reported by The Verge.

Facebook has been dogged by criticism for allowing advertisers to exclude and target racial groups, a practice that was detailed by ProPublica in 2016. Last August, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sued the social network for housing discrimination for allegedly letting real estate sellers hide their ads from minorities.

Cortez Masto’s bill is the latest measure introduced by lawmakers who say they are frustrated by the lack of regulation governing the booming industries of data collection and online advertising.

The Senate and House both held hearings this week as part of an early step toward crafting the nation’s first comprehensive data privacy law — a push that has gained bipartisan momentum in recent months.

But Democrats and Republicans appear sharply divided over the issue of whether to allow states to set their own privacy rules. Cortez Masto’s bill would not preempt state law and would allow state attorneys general to extract fines for privacy violations.