The US government may actually have made a proper online privacy (opens in new tab) bill following reports that new data privacy legislation is close to being established, one with bipartisan support, as well as support from consumer rights advocates.
It’s still not signed into law, but if it does succeed, users will be allowed to opt out of targeted advertisement, and sue companies selling their data unlawfully.
The biggest stumbling block between the Democrats and the Republicans was whether federal law should preempt state laws. Republicans support this idea, saying anything else would make for a compliance nightmare for businesses. The Democrats, on the other hand, want consumers to be able to sue businesses playing with their customers’ data too much.
Harvesting minimal data
The proposed legislation finds a compromise between the two, The Washington Post says. There would be a limit on how and when people could sue internet companies, and some measures that would supersede state digital privacy laws.
Businesses would only be allowed to harvest data pivotal to the survival of their operations, and they would no longer be allowed to charge users to access data privacy measures (save for a few exemptions). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be required to create a public registry of data brokers, and create a mechanism enabling users to opt out of targeted advertisement and data sharing practices. Users would also be free to tweak their digital data gathered from their browsing (opens in new tab) habits, and otherwise.
To make all of this reality, the FTC would set up a new organization. Federal regulators, as well as state attorneys, would be allowed to sue groups they believe violate these laws, for punitive damages. Individuals will also be able to sue, but only after a four-year grace period.
For consumer rights advocates, the proposed bill is “the biggest breakthrough” in the lawmakers’ effort to create a federal privacy law, The Washington Post concluded.