Wyden Introduces New Do-Not-Track Law

A privacy bill introduced Thursday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) would create a national “do not track” regime that gives consumers the right to prevent information about them from being shared or sold by ad-tech companies.

The “Mind Your Own Business Act,” which comes almost one year after Wyden first floated a draft privacy bill, allows the Federal Trade Commission to fine violators up to 4% of their annual revenue.

Currently, the FTC can't generally fine companies over privacy violations, unless the companies were already subject to a consent decree or court order. The measure also calls for criminal sanctions -- including sentences of up to 20 years in prison -- for senior executives who knowingly lie to the FTC.

“Mark Zuckerberg won’t take Americans’ privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences for lying about his failure to protect your data,” Wyden tweeted Thursday. “I just introduced a bill that would put execs in jail when they lie to the government about how they protect consumers’ data.”

The proposed bill would beef up the FTC by allowing the agency to hire an additional 175 people dedicated to policing privacy.

Earlier this year, FTC Chair Joe Simons asked Congress for a “significant increase” in personnel, in order to investigate and prosecute privacy cases. Simons said at the time that the agency employs 40 full-time staff devoted to privacy and data security.

By comparison, the Information Commissioners' office has around 500 employees, Simons told lawmakers.

Another provision of Wyden's proposed measure would require companies to study whether algorithms threaten privacy or result in discrimination.

Earlier this year, Wyden along with two other lawmakers introduced a separate bill, the Algorithmic Accountability Act, which would also require companies to study whether their algorithms pose risks to privacy, as well as whether they may result in inaccurate, unfair or discriminatory decisions.)

The measure includes a provision that allows companies to charge a “reasonable fee” to people who refuse to allow data sharing.

Wyden's proposed bill would not override state laws such as California's new Consumer Privacy Act, slated to take effect next year. That law gives consumers the right to learn what personal information has been collected about them by companies, to have that information deleted, and to prevent the sale or other disclosure of that data to third parties. 

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