House Democrat introduces data privacy bill
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) on Wednesday reintroduced legislation Wednesday aimed at creating a national standard for data privacy.
The Information Transparency and Personal Data Control Act is the first consumer privacy bill introduced this Congress and comes shortly after Virginia passed its own state-level standard.
“Data privacy is a 21 st Century issue of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights and the U.S. has no policy to protect our most sensitive personal information from abuse,” DelBene said in a statement.
The legislation would require businesses to get affirmative consent from users before sharing their sensitive information, like financial account numbers, health information or SSNs.
It would also let users opt-out of the collection of other nonsensitive data.
Businesses would be obligated to tell users if and why their info is being used and maintain privacy policies written in “plain language.”
The legislation would also expand the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to enforce the new law and increase the agency’s funding and staffing.
It would have businesses submit a privacy audit to the FTC every two years, although smaller companies would be exempt from that requirement.
The bill deviates from federal privacy proposals introduced by Democrats in previous Congressional sessions in two key ways.
First, it does not give individual consumers the right to sue businesses that they believe violated their rights under the privacy law. The FTC and state attorneys general would have sole authority to challenge potential violations.
Second, it sets a ceiling rather than a floor for consumer privacy bills, meaning it would effectively supersede Virginia’s new bill and California’s consumer data protection rules, the latter of which is more stringent that DelBene’s proposal.
DelBene defended the state pre-emption component of her bill in a call with reporters last week.
“I understand why states are moving forward in the absence of the federal government moving, but I think it is much better to have a federal law versus a patchwork of laws from a consumer standpoint, but also from the standpoint of a small business” she explained.
The bill from DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, earned wide praise from industry groups Wednesday.
The Chamber of Commerce called the legislation a “promising first step in bringing consumers, the private sector, and policymakers together to protect sensitive information from bad actors.”
The National Retail Federation said that the “principles embodied by this legislation are critical to ensuring the enactment of a balanced federal privacy law that benefits consumers and businesses alike.”
DelBene’s bill was introduced without Republican co-sponsors on Wednesday, but the Washington lawmaker is hopeful that the bill will be able to get widespread support.
“I believe this can be bipartisan, this is not an issue that’s partisan per se,” she told reporters.
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