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Senator seeks to prevent next Cambridge Analytica scandal with new voter privacy bill

Let’s see what Mitch McConnell thinks of this one

illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

As the 2020 election season heats up, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is introducing a new bill she hopes will help prevent the next Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Feinstein’s “Voter Privacy Act” would empower voters with new authority over how their data is collected and used by political campaigns. If approved, campaigns would be required to notify you if they obtained your data through a data broker and allow you to both access and delete it from their databases. Voters would also be able to ask platforms like Facebook and Google to stop sharing their data with these campaigns.

“Political candidates and campaigns shouldn’t be able to use private data to manipulate and mislead voters,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Today, campaigns are legally able to conduct sophisticated online surveillance of everyone in our country in order to influence individuals based on their unique psychological characteristics.”

Cambridge Analytica, a former political consulting and data analytics firm, was caught in a political crossfire last year after it was revealed that it used millions of Facebook data sets to target American voters. Those ads were filled with pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton messaging, raising concerns over whether voters were manipulated online in 2016.

“This targeted manipulation not only undermines our democracy, it’s a threat to basic individual freedom,” Feinstein said.

Earlier this month, Netflix released a new documentary, The Great Hack, which detailed the scandal and brought Facebook’s data malpractices back into discussion ahead of the 2020 elections.

Senate Democrats have made it a priority to pass election security legislation over the past few days, pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up bipartisan measures that would combat social media disinformation and require voting machines to be backed up by paper ballots. So far, McConnell has blocked these measures from heading to the floor.