News that Cambridge Analytica obtained data about millions of Facebook users is spurring advocacy groups to call for new data protection laws.
On Wednesday, Consumer Watchdog endorsed the CONSENT Act, introduced earlier in the week by Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). That bill would require Facebook, Google and other web companies to obtain consumers' explicit consent to use or share their personal information.
“Facebook has a longtime record of violating privacy, making a show of apologizing, and then going forward to invade privacy again,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy and Technology Project director, stated Wednesday. “It’s past time for Congress to enact legislation that will ensure that Facebook and other tech giants can no longer continue to invade our privacy."
When Facebook CEO Zuckerberg testified to the Senate on Tuesday, he was asked by both Blumenthal and Markey whether he would support their proposal, which sets up an opt-in system for data collection. Zuckerberg's response was noncommittal. He told Blumenthal that the idea "certainly makes sense to discuss," and told Markey that "in principle" the idea makes sense, but added that the details of the proposal would be critical.
The watchdog group Public Knowledge also called for new privacy laws this week. "Unauthorized access to personal data has run rampant -- whether it is in the form of Cambridge Analytica, where authorized access to data was misused and shared in ways that exceeded authorization, or in the form of a data breach, where information was accessed in an unauthorized way," Public Knowledge says in a letter to lawmakers. "The industry has long insisted that it can regulate itself. However, the deluge of data breaches and unauthorized and unsavory use of consumer data makes clear that self regulation is insufficient."
That organization is seeking a host of measures, including laws requiring companies to provide clear privacy notices and give people "meaningful opportunities to freely and affirmatively consent to data collection, retention, and sharing."
Facebook currently operates under a 20-year consent decree that it agreed to in order to settle a privacy investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. That decree, signed in 2011 and finalized the following year, stemmed from allegations that Facebook repeatedly shared information that users believed would be kept private.