Democratic leaders have proposed new privacy laws in an attempt to rein in the large tech companies in the U.S. after confidence in these companies has been shaken due to a series of scandals that exposed the personal data millions of consumers in the U.S.
Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate commerce, science, and transportation committee, wants to “provide consumers with foundational data privacy rights, create strong oversight mechanisms, and establish meaningful enforcement”.
The Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (Copra) is similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation of 2016, in that it would force tech companies to disclose the personal information they have collected on consumers. In addition, it would require them to delete or correct inaccurate or incomplete information as well as give consumers the ability to block the sale of their information.
“In the growing online world, consumers deserve two things: privacy rights and a strong law to enforce them,” Cantwell said. “They should be like your Miranda rights – clear as a bell as to what they are and what constitutes a violation.”
This new legislation comes after several failed attempts to gain more control over these powerful tech companies in the US.
If passed, it would also be easier for U.S. authorities to levy large fines on these tech companies making it easier for people to sue the companies that breach the new privacy rules. There will also be tougher rules to protect teenagers as well as children in the new bill.
In addition, companies would have to get a consumer’s permission to share any sensitive information, which the bill defines as location, biometrics, email address, or telephone number.
“The key thing is that obviously you have to have privacy rights. It should be clear and you should know what they are,” Senator Maria Cantwell said in an interview.
The legislation is supported and sponsored by Democrats, including presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar.
“Companies continue to profit off of the personal data they collect from Americans, but they leave consumers completely in the dark about how their personal information is being used,” she said. “It’s time for Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation.”
Deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, Evan Greer, said Copra seemed like aa legitimate effort to employ basic protections.
“The writing is on the wall: companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google have achieved their titanic size and by harvesting our personal data as part of a business model based in surveillance that is fundamentally at odds with basic human rights,” she said.
“It’s a no-brainer for lawmakers to support this basic level of protection. In the end, strong data privacy legislation will need to be one piece of a larger effort to rein in big tech and ensure that the internet is a force for liberation and creativity, rather than tyranny and greed,” said Greer.
Based on what Democrats have said, the legislation seems relatively harmless — so far. But as we all know, the devil is in the details. Democrats love to talk tough about Big Tech when it’s convenient, but are completely silent when these same companies do their bidding by censoring conservative voices, and de-platforming anyone who doesn’t fit within their tightly confined window of approvable opinion.
Americans must be given more information if this is to move forward.