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Senators propose legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data after Facebook hearing

Senators propose legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data after Facebook hearing


‘I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God, I will’

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At House Hearing
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) will introduce legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data, the pair said today in a joint statement. Though a bill has not been drafted yet, the legislation would, among other things, give users recourse options if their data is breached, and the right to opt out of data tracking and collection.

The proposed legislation will address seven key points, the senators said:

  • Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.
  • Give users greater access to and control over their data.
  • Require terms of service agreements to be written in “plain language.”
  • Ensure users can see what information about them has already been collected and shared,
  • Mandate that users be notified of a breach of their information within 72 hours.
  • Offer remedies for users when a breach occurs,
  • Require online platforms to have a privacy program in place.

“Consumers have the right to know if their personal information is being sold and they have the right to easily see what data has already been sold or distributed,” Klobuchar said in the statement. “The digital space can’t keep operating like the Wild Wild West at the expense of our privacy.”

Kennedy had one of the more colorful lines of questioning during Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on April 10th. “Mr. Zuckerberg, I come in peace,” he said at the time. “I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God, I will. In fact, a lot of that depends on you. I’m a little disappointed in this hearing today. I just don’t feel like we’re connecting.”

Kennedy went on to bluntly say, “Your user agreement sucks. The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end. It’s not to inform your users about their rights. Now you know that, and I know that. I’m going to suggest to you that you go back home and rewrite it.”

The legislation proposed by the senators today sounds similar in nature to a bill introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) known as the CONSENT Act (short for Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions). The CONSENT Act is stronger in language, however, requiring explicit consent from users to use, share, or sell any of their personal information, as well as a clear notification any time data their is collected, shared, or used.

It remains to be seen whether these senators’ appetite for regulation extends to a majority of Congress. Other bills in a similar vein have stalled. In October, Sen. Klobuchar introduced the Honest Ads Act with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The act would require companies like Facebook and Google to keep copies of political ads and make them publicly available. It has made little progress in receiving a hearing so far, though recently both Facebook and Twitter expressed support for it.