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

“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.

Comments

Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.

This would be fantastic. I await an article about how much money Facebook and Google will throw against this if it gets any traction.


Give users greater access to and control over their data.

Require terms of service agreements to be written in "plain language."

Okay, great in theory, but how the hell will they propose to do that? While still keeping it a legally binding (probably) document? It’d be easier to just ban these entirely than try to adjudicate their "plain language".


Ensure users can see what information about them has already been collected and shared,

Perfect, and something that the big players are already working on. There’ll be some interesting court cases about how far this extends, and how to define data that is about someone.


Mandate that users be notified of a breach of their information within 72 hours.

Makes sense.


Offer remedies for users when a breach occurs,

This is gonna be interesting… I wonder if they’ll require monetary penalties? Or free identity protection services? How many hoops will the companies be able to put in front of those remedies.


Require online platforms to have a privacy program in place.

There’s going to be a lot of crying about undue burden, and if this bill actually goes anywhere it’s going to be an interesting ride.

This would be fantastic. I await an article about how much money Facebook and Google will throw against this if it gets any traction.

I know how the government works. Google will get a stipulation added that the data becomes non-personal data if the individual user can not be identified. Google would still make tons of money.

Ensure users can see what information about them has already been collected and shared

Yep and this is something Google for example already does and has been doing for a while now.

Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.

This would be fantastic. I await an article about how much money Facebook and Google will throw against this if it gets any traction.

Actually you can already do that, at least in Google’s case. It wouldn’t affect Google as much as you think, as most proposals are already covered by the actual tools and policies provided at the moment.

Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.

People who opt out get a lesser experience and can pay for feature parity. That sounds like a win win. $5 a month gmail. $49 for a year Facebook gold.

You’d be surprised at the number of people that leave if it stops being free. Any change from free will be perceived as a price increase which will impact demand. This could also impact businesses like Spotify that have a free tier that relies on ads.

The "price increase" would only be for people who want their privacy. The vast majority of people will opt in to data sharing for continued use of the product.

Here’s a hint, the people who actually care, aren’t using Facebook anyway.

Facebook should be shut down for invading the privacy of non facebook users. Hopefully it no longer is free and people do abandon it leading to its demise.

Collecting data and creating shadow profiles of non users is absolutely disgusting.

We should shut down Google and Microsoft too. While we’re at it, we should just make all advertising illegal. Its only purpose if to enrich the already wealthy. Then the government should seize all of their assets and operate in their stead.

We might want to look a private property while we’re at it.

Except that the majority of people refuse to pay one penny for services like that, so no it’s not a win for anyone.

Then those people would pay by allowing Facebook to use their data. All of these privacy minded tech folk can pay money for their privacy.

One word "Equifax"

I didn’t watch much of the testimony because I don’t have 12 personal hours to waste, but I did see that highlight reel of him being asked literally stupid questions and I’m not sure I trust Congress/the Senate to write legislation that actually ends up helping the consumer when way too many of them have a grasp of how e-commerce works. But A for effort for these guys

Didn’t they pass a law for nearly antithetical to this proposition? Allowing ISPs to sell users’ data without consent? By how incompetent they’ve shown themselves in this hearing regarding technology, at least we know for sure that they don’t know anything about the law they had passed.

Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.

Yes. We want these services for free!

I’d like the government to apply these same rules to their own collection system.

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