Senate Democrats Reintroduce Bill To Curb Data Brokers

Four Senate Democrats have re-introduced a bill that would enable consumers to wield control over how information about them is used by data brokers.

The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 668) empowers consumers to stop the use and sale of their personal information by data brokers. The measure also allows consumers to correct information held by data brokers, which the bill defines as companies that collect personal information in order to sell it to third parties.

Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced the measure on Thursday. “I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, including the right to determine whether information about their personal lives should be available for sale to the highest bidder,” Franken said in a statement accompanying the bill.

Peggy Hudson, senior vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, says the organization opposes the bill.

“It stifles the responsible use of data,” she says. “It stifles innovation and hurts consumers.”

The advocacy groups Consumer Watchdog, Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. Public Interest Research Group are backing the proposal, which is similar to one introduced last year by Markey and former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

The current proposal comes less than one week after the White House floated a potential consumer privacy “bill of rights.” That measure has drawn criticism from industry representatives, who say it is unnecessary, as well as privacy advocates, who say the proposal doesn't adequately protect privacy.

Markey and Franken are among those who expressed disappointment in the White House's proposal. The same day the White House unveiled its proposal, Markey vowed to reintroduce legislation aimed at curbing data brokers.

John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's privacy project, characterized the bill unveiled on Thursday as “much stronger” than the White House's proposal. He adds that even if the current Congress isn't inclined to pass new privacy legislation, the measure can still draw attention to privacy issues.

“In addition a good bill can serve as a model for state legislation,” he says in an email to Online Media Daily.


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